ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Navy wasted little time finding a new football coach, promoting assistant Ken Niumatalolo on Saturday to replace Paul Johnson, who left Friday to take over at Georgia Tech.
The 42-year-old Niumatalolo is believed to be the NCAA’s first Polynesian head coach.
Niumatalolo had two coaching stints at the Naval Academy for a total of 10 seasons, including the last six, when he was assistant head coach and offensive line coach.
The Midshipmen went 45-29 in six seasons under Johnson, including 43-19 over the last five years, and became the first Navy team to record six straight wins over Army.
Niumatalolo played a major role in installing the triple option attack that enabled Navy to set the school’s single-season scoring record this year. He will coach the Midshipmen against Utah in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be named head football coach at the Naval Academy,” Niumatalolo said. “I am in the process of putting together a coaching staff that will give us every opportunity to continue the winning tradition at the Naval Academy.”
Niumatalolo’s work with the offense helped the Midshipmen lead the nation in rushing in four of the last five years, including each of the past three seasons, a first in NCAA history. Navy is averaging a school-record 351.5 yards rushing per game this year.
A 1989 graduate of Hawaii, he lettered three years as a quarterback and led the Rainbow Warriors to their first postseason bowl appearance in 1989. He was hired as a full-time assistant by his alma mater in 1992 and spent three seasons as an offensive assistant coach.
For Navy and Niumatalolo, I hope this isn’t George Welsh II. Welsh took over a Navy team in 1973 that had fallen on hard times and then led them to three bowl games in his last four years before departing for ACC school Virginia. Welsh was Navy’s only winning coach between 1965 and 2007 other than Johnson.
Johnson like Welsh left for a ACC school, in his case Georgia Tech. Will history repeat itself all over again at the Navy Academy? Coaching at service schools has to be some of college sports toughest assignments.
Note- I watched college football even more in the last years of Welsh’s time at Navy(78-81) than I do today. That and my serving in the Navy beginning in 1979 makes me recall Navy football from that era very well.
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