Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has landed in Utah and will meet with BYU officials today, according to Jeff Call of The Deseret News.
Niumatalolo did not comment on his trip, but explained his interest in the job to ESPN on Saturday.
“I had several schools contact my agent and quite frankly I wasn’t that interested in them. I love the Naval Academy. I love what it stands for,” he said. “But when this one opened up, it’s different. It is just different for me. My faith is everything to me. This is the only reason that I feel like I need to listen to what they have to offer.”
“I love what I’m doing,” Niumatalolo told ESPN. “I’m not a guy who is trying to solicit for other jobs. I’ve been here 18 years. I love the kids I coach and I love the people I work with. It’s just something inside that I feel like I have to check out.”
That certainly explains why Niumatalolo couldn’t resist the call from BYU, being a devout Mormon and a key figure in the Pacific Islander community, which makes up a good chunk of the Cougars’ recruiting base. Moreover, his son plays for the team.
But there’s one thing Niumatalolo has at Navy that BYU cannot provide: some extra love from the College Football Playoff committee. The Midshipmen play in the AAC, while BYU is independent and thus has a tougher time earning a spot in the bigger bowl games, namely the New Year’s Six. On top of that, being independent, the team’s schedule is tougher, with the Cougars slated to play Arizona, at Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, Toledo, at Michigan State, Mississippi State and at Boise State next season before even getting a bye week. Given how he’d still be playing with a deck of mostly outgoing coach Bronco Mendenhall’s players, there would certainly be an adjustment period of some kind.
That said, will Niumatalolo walk away from Navy, with whom he has gone 67-37 in eight seasons as head coach and see what BYU has to offer? It’s hard to say at this point, but the fact that he’s meeting with school higher-ups today could wind up being a telling sign.
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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports