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Navy Football Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo

Sep 20, 2012 11:30AM ● By Anonymous

Coach Niumatatlolo, who took the reins of a very successful program from Paul Johnson in 2007, also discusses his coaching background, the state of college football, and what a move into the Big East Conference will mean for the Navy program, beginning in 2015.

Was there a crystallizing moment when you knew you wanted to coach football early on?

My senior year in college [at University of Hawaii], I was a backup quarterback, so I figured I would try to learn as much as I could about the offense. And near the end of my senior year, Coach Paul Johnson, who was the offensive coordinator, asked me if I wanted to be a graduate assistant. So that was when I first thought about getting
into college coaching.

Was coach Johnson the biggest influence on your style of coaching?

He's a big reason why I'm coaching. But we are totally different in our styles. Schematically what I've learned, the majority is from Coach Johnson, with the option offense. But I've taken a lot from many people. Really, a big part of my style is from my dad. And John Velasco, my high school coach. You take bits and parts from everybody, but my dad and high school coach are my biggest [personal] influences.

As far as being a head coach, probably John Robinson [former USC football coach and College Football Hall of Famer]. I liked the way he coached; his style.

Navy football has agreed to join the Big east conference, beginning in the 2015 season. Have you even had a chance to think about how the move from being an independent program to within a conference will affect the season, schedule, competition, and the program in general?

Oh yes. It's all I've thought about. This is years of thinking about it. I saw things happening when the PAC 12 Conference evolved and took Utah and the Big 12 was going to make changes. I knew we needed to start looking and formulating a game plan. Everything that has happened has been calculated. The problem is, I don't think anybody truly knows what the landscape of college football is going to be. So there are a lot of question marks and many variables. Those looking outside in on those BCS conferences are scrambling. But fortunately, joining the Big East will help us.

For me, I think about where does our program go? We're trying to do what's best for the survival of our program. We took some heat for comments made about Air Force. But first and foremost, we've got to look out for ourselves. If you look at BYU and Utah, they've had a 100-year-old rivalry, but they both made decisions that were best for their institutions [Utah joined the PAC 12]. As much as they would have liked to continue that rivalry, they had to look out for themselves [rivalry will not continue in 2014]. Just like what happened to Texas and Texas A&M, who joined the SEC. I'm sure they'd love to keep that game between the Longhorns [Texas], but A&M had to think about its future.

I guess that's where we've been with all of this; making sure that Navy football has a secure place as we move into the future.

What do you hope to learn and to teach during spring scrimmages and were there any surprises?

We have two new captains Brye French and Bo Snelson. We had a great offseason and I was happy with spring ball. We had 15 practices. By the time we get to that 15th practice, I'm sure we've had more reps than a majority of other schools. I think the mentality of what we're trying to establish with toughness was accomplished in those 15 practices.

Trey Miller is your projected starting quarterback. What can you tell us about him as a player?

I think Trey has all that we're looking for; all the intangibles. He's humble and willing to work. He can run, is a good passer, so he has the duel-threat that we're looking for. He listens to coaching. I'm excited and looking for him to have a great year.

Why is the triple-option offense so successful in your opinion?

This offense gives us an opportunity to compete. We're never going to be as big as our opponents. You don't have to block everybody because you're reading them on the option. So you can use guys that would normally be blocking a single player to double-team another. And a lot of teams don't use it anymore. Georgia Tech, Air Force, and Navy are really the only teams that use the true inside and outside triple-option.

Since you've been head coach, your teams have achieved quite a lot; commander in chief's trophies, beating notre dame, and several bowl game wins. is there any other pinnacle goal you hope to achieve with the navy program?

No. We try to keep our goals pretty simple. Beat Army. Win the Commander in Chief's trophy by beating Air Force also. And getting into a bowl game. If we can accomplish that and win a bowl game, then we feel like we've had a successful year. We feel the requirements that our young people have to go through are unlike any other school except for the other two service academies. So I don't say, "Hey we're going to go for a national championship." Yeah, we'd love to win every game. I'm not saying we don't want to do that, but we also try to be realistic and understand what these guys have to go through in being successful in the classroom and in a military sense.

Last season, the team experienced several very emotional games—some wins, other losses—that could have gone either way. how do you address your players after such a game and how do you, personally, unwind after that?

When you lose five games by a total of 11 points it's hard because you put so much into it. The kids have invested so much, they work hard. But it just reinforces to everybody in our program that the little things add up. So that's another thing we emphasize in the off-season. Just making sure that if you're supposed to be at-weight, on-time or early to meetings, running a six-yard route at six yards and not five or seven. Paying close attention to details.

I try to keep a balance. I want to win, I'm a competitor, but there's other things going on in my life. I'm a father and a husband. Hopefully, we don't have too many losses. Whether it's a win or loss, I try to spend time with my family after the game.