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Leading Navy Football Is A Job That Transcends Sports

It is difficult compare a service academy job to the rest of the AAC. How exactly does Navy match up as a head coaching job with the rest of the conference?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

When originally talking about this series with the rest of the UDD staff, there was one program that brought forth the most varied opinions. The head coaching job for the Navy Midshipmen was ranked as high as a top five position by some and as low as the worst job in the AAC by others.

Coaching at Navy is a much different job that at any other job in the conference due to it being a service academy. Some coaches have struggled with the ability to turn an undersized squad into a solid football program.

From the history starting in the 1870s to seven top 10 national rankings to a resurgence under Paul Johnson and Ken Niumatalolo, there is and will always be something special about the Navy football program.

How does the Navy head coaching job stack up versus other jobs in the AAC?


  • A history unlike any other. Navy have Heisman Trophy winners Joe Bellino and Roger Staubach as well as eight different Top 10 AP poll finishes. The Midshipmen boast rivalries with Notre Dame, Pitt, Virginia, and Army among others.
  • The Army-Navy Game. Arguably the greatest rivalry game in all of sports, the annual Army-Navy game is a once in a lifetime experience that everyone should attend. To be part of a game that grasps the attention of the entire nation no matter the records, it is a huge deal. It even has its own website.
  • The triple option. I am biased, but a perfectly run triple option is the beauty of college football in a nutshell. It is also a perfect offense for an undersized team to run. We just experienced one of the greatest four years of the triple option under Keenan Reynolds.
  • A litany of famous players. Joe Bellino, Roger Staubach, Slade Cutter, Donald Whitmire, Bob Reifsnyder, Napoleon McCallum, and Keenan Reynolds. I could go on and add several more players to the list, but that is just a taste of the talent that has passed through Navy.


  • Recruiting is tough. Navy is not a school that recruits players for football only. When a player makes the commitment to Navy, it is to be part of the Navy, not just to play football. The four or five-star player looking to play in the NFL will not even think of Navy.
  • A tough schedule. Though Navy has been extremely successful in recent years, they play an incredibly tough schedule on a yearly basis. A yearly game versus Notre Dame, Air Force, and Army are always tough an emotional games. Then you add in another non-conference game (FAU in 2017, Hawaii and Lehigh in 2018, and Southern Miss in 2019). That isn't even mentioning an AAC division that includes Houston, Memphis, Tulsa, Tulane, and SMU.
  • Always undersized. The Midshipmen have a total of eight players that are 300+ pounds. They have 20 players that are under 5-11. It takes a special type of coach to turn an eternally undersized team into a winning program on a yearly basis.

Making the case for why Navy should be higher: Justin Mears, UDD's Navy Writer.

The Navy homer in me would say third highest salary in AAC with the ninth or so expectations from the fan base. As long as you beat Army and get to a bowl game, you are golden. They have done that 12 out of 13 years in a row.

The head coach gets a house and a car. Everything is provided for you, Annapolis is gorgeous, and almost every player gets to redshirt but still play at the prep school for a year to develop more.

You can have as many players on the team as you want (no scholarship limit like other schools).

Upside certainly not as high as others but neither are expectations yet they are paying Ken Niumatalolo a top three salary in conference.

If you were playing NCAA football in an online dynasty...

You are like me and love running the triple option on video games. Nothing is more fun than running the speed option to the outside, making the perfect pitch, and going 80 yards for a touchdown. You like being an underdog that can compete with the big boys on lesser talent.

You want to bring glory to the Naval Academy and possibly bring a national title to a service academy. The job on this game is a multi-year commitment. You will not be making the college football playoff with a single undefeated season. After two in a row, you might get your national title shot during the third season.

If you choose this job in real life...

You understand ahead of time that this is a job unlike any other. The players have commitments that supersede football and are training to become the first line of defense for the United States. You are hopefully well versed in the option and have an ability to pull out every ounce of talent from your players.

You can't go into this job hoping to use it as a stepping stone. Coaches for service academies tend to get typecast and rarely get a shot to move up. Paul Johnson was an exception in bringing the option to Georgia Tech. Things could be changing in the future as Niumatalolo has proven success brings suitors.


As I said before, it takes a different type of person to run a football program for a service academy. The built in disadvantages of leading Navy are more than apparent, but Johnson and Niumatalolo have proven that 21st century success is possible.

The job will never have the attraction of the top jobs in the AAC, it is a dream job for a candidate that has lots of respect for the armed forces and wants to transcend football.

The list so far:

8. Southern Methodist

9. Connecticut

10. Temple

11. Tulsa

12. Tulane