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Ken Niumatalolo Says He Was Fired as Navy HC Right After 2OT Loss to Army

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 12, 2022

ORLANDO, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Navy Midshipmen head coach Ken Niumatalolo during the football game between the UCF Knights and the Navy Midshipmen on November 19th, 2022 at FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, FL. (Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo revealed athletic director Chet Gladchuk did not waste much time informing him he was fired following Saturday's 20-17 double-overtime loss to Army.

"First of all, we just got kicked in the gut," Niumatalolo said when telling ESPN's Heather Dinich he was fired right after the game. "I was a little bit numb prior to him saying that, so most of it I couldn't comprehend. I'm just like, 'Chet, why don't you take some time to relax.' He said, 'Well, it's been building up.'"

Saturday's loss was of the heartbreaking variety for Navy, as Anton Hall Jr.'s fumble inside the Army 1-yard line in double overtime was the difference-maker.

The Black Knights won it with a field goal on the ensuing possession.

"I'm a competitor," Niumatalolo said. "It's hard for me to think that we got the ball on the six-inch line, and that's my last game. That's hard to fathom. If we win, he's not firing me. How do you fire a guy after you win the Army-Navy game? That's not going to happen."

Yet Navy is just 2-5 in its last seven against Army and 2-5 in its last seven against Air Force.

Gladchuk explained the goals of making bowl games and winning the Commander-In-Chief's Trophy were explained to the head coach "without any question of a doubt." This season is the third straight with a losing record for the Midshipmen, meaning they fell short of both goals.

"That's been the constant bar we strive for, is to achieve those two goals, which I believe are very realistic, very reasonable, and have been consistent for 20 years, and therefore this does not come as any surprise," the athletic director said. "It's just an expectation that unfortunately fell short."

Dinich noted Navy does not redshirt players and did not receive an additional year of eligibility because of the COVID-19 pandemic. While Niumatalolo asked for additional years of eligibility due to the pandemic, his request was denied due to the government's requirement players graduate in four years.

"We have to make this a level playing field," he said. "If we had what they had, if I was able to stretch several guys every year ... we're sharing our indoor facility with gymnastics. Who else in the country is sharing their indoor facility with gymnastics? There's times we're out there in the freezing rain. I'm like, where else is anybody else practicing like this?"

Despite an unceremonious ending, Niumatalolo went 109-83 as the head coach at Navy and guided the program to 10 bowl games since the 2008 campaign.

He is the winningest coach in program history and had teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019. Yet he was unable to do enough to save his job after a third consecutive disappointing campaign.