Back in January, Niumatalolo was rewarded with a contract extension after he led the Midshipmen to an 8-5 season which included the team’s sixth consecutive Commander in Chief’s Trophy and bowl appearance. At the time he told the Annapolis Capital the following:
“The Naval Academy has made a significant commitment to me and my family, for which we are eternally grateful. We love this great institution, we love Annapolis and we love the young men that we have been entrusted to lead. The Naval Academy is a special place and I have no desire to coach anywhere else in the country. This mutual commitment is a clear sign of the future direction of this storied program.”
That was a pretty definitive answer, but it also came before arguably one of the biggest victories for Navy in the past several decades, a 23-21 victory over a 19th ranked Notre Dame team two weeks ago. It was the second time in two years that Niumatalolo has led the Midshipmen to an upset of a ranked team having beat the 16th ranked Wake Forest Demon Deacons, 24-17 last season. His answer last January also came before any potential job opportunities were before him.
So after practice on Monday felt like a good time to see where Coach Niumatalolo was at career wise, and whether or not he would listen to any offers that may come his way.
“I’m happy here. That’s all I can say. I coach at a great place. Something came out about my salary (a few days ago), regardless if the numbers were right or not; I am doing well. I mean don’t worry about me financially. I’m happy,” said Niumatalolo.
When asked if Navy fans should get nervous when they see other schools firing coaches, Niumatalolo didn’t hesitate to put their minds at ease.
“No, because I was an assistant for 18 years and I watched guys always jump (to other schools) or they always had their resume out…always trying to get out there and campaign for themselves. I think a big key is making sure you are happy where you are at. We love living here in Annapolis. My kids love living here. My daughter is still at Maryland. I love working here. I don’t have any reason to leave.”
That should end any speculation for awhile. So instead of wondering what other jobs may be out there, how will Navy’s head coach spend the bye week?
“I will be reading all of (Navy SID Scott) Strasemeier’s emails,” he joked.
And while the coach is doing some significant reading, he is making sure that his players are nowhere near the football field for a few days.
“They are banished…I don’t want to see them here. The only reason they need to be here is for treatment. (They need to) reintroduce themselves to people (in Bancroft Hall). We complained all year that we had a tough schedule without a break. This is our break now. It is a great time to rest.”
But what if the Midshipmen were not sporting an 8-3 record and perhaps bowl eligibility was still in doubt. Would the coach still have given his team a few days off?
“I was kind of hoping that we would have a winning record, but we knew once we got here that we would give them time off. Some guys are still learning how to manage their time. They can’t balance all three (dimensions of the Academy). People like Ross (Pospisil) do a great job of balancing the academics, military, and athletic aspects. I’m hoping others will follow his lead.”
“We really need a break – we needed it earlier. Having said that (the break) is here and we need to take advantage of it,” he continued.
Once the team returns to practice, a focus in their preparation for the pass-happy Rainbow Warriors will be nothing new for the defense.
“Even though (Hawaii) is a big passing team, we definitely want to make sure we take care of the run. You try to make them play left-handed. We didn’t do that well last week against Delaware.”
Navy will depart for the Islands on Wednesday, November 25 and they will actually get there in time to practice the same day. On Thanksgiving, the team will eat together and also pay a special visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial. The trip will be different from a normal away game for Navy, and according to Niumatalolo, the opponent has a tendency to take advantage of that.
“When we get to Hawaii there is going to be a ton of distractions. It’s not like we can put blinds on the windows or lock them up in their rooms. We have to (let them) have a little fun but also get them ready to play. I’ve coached there for many years, and I know it is a great home-field advantage (for Hawaii) because (opponents) get distracted.”
A win over Hawaii will keep the possibility alive of the Midshipmen winning 11 games for the first time in the school’s history. It’s not often that any team exceeds its own lofty expectations that they make in the beginning of the season, but if Navy wins its last three games, they will do just that. And the opportunity to accomplish the feat is on the minds of the players. However, their head coach is making sure they keep it in the back of their minds.
“No it wasn’t a goal, but it’s out there. They are smart kids. They see it…they can add. But it’s one game at a time. Just like last week, I was so concerned. And I think some of us didn’t listen to that because we didn’t play as well as we needed to.”