PHILADELPHIA >> Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo will visit BYU on Monday to talk about the program’s head coaching vacancy.
Niumatalolo is 66-37 in eight years at No. 21 Navy and 7-0 against Army headed into the annual game on Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field. Navy has defeated Army a series-record 13 straight times. With a win Niumatalolo would match Army’s Earl Blaik for most victories in the series.
“I love the Naval Academy,” Niumatalolo told ESPN’s “College GameDay” on Saturday. “I love what it stands for. But when this one opened up, it’s different. It’s just different for me.”
Niumatalolo’s son, Va’a, is a sophomore linebacker at BYU.
Niumatalolo is a Mormon who went on a two-year mission following his freshman year at the University of Hawaii. Niumatalolo and his family were featured in a recent documentary titled “Meet the Mormons.”
BYU’s job opened when Bronco Mendenhall resigned and accepted the job at Virginia.
“The only thing that is really disturbing, to all of us, is the fact that it’s been played out through the course of the week,” Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told The Associated Press before Saturday’s game. “It’s been a distraction. This is the biggest game of the year. We’re an institution, and we’re certainly a football program, that’s steeped in team and not about ‘me.’ All of a sudden, it’s become about that.
“It’s been really kind of difficult for some of the players to deal with.”
Navy (9-2) plays Pittsburgh (8-4) in the Dec. 28 Military Bowl at Annapolis, Maryland.
Niumatalolo is the winningest coach in Navy history and will coach the program in his eighth bowl game. He told ESPN that BYU was the only job he was interested in listening to a pitch.
Gladchuk said he talked to Niumatalolo this week about the opening.
“This is a spiritual calling,” Gladchuk said. “It’s not about the job, it’s not about Annapolis. It’s not about the players and the United States Naval Academy or what he’s getting paid. It has to do with the religious affiliation that he has and he just feels strongly that he has to go out and take a look at it.”
Gladchuk said the Midshipmen were focused on beating Army and the program would forge ahead, no matter the coach.
“We’re not going wait too long, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’ve got to recruit, we’ve got to push forward. There’s an old saying, either you’re in or you’re out. We’ll find out pretty quickly. Hopefully, he’s in and we continue with business as usual.”