By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
Every year around this time of the college football season, we start to discuss the top coaching candidates to fill the numerous positions that open up. We’re not even at the end of the regular season and already there are 11 schools looking for their next head coach. The coaching carousel will only continue to spin as teams wrap up the regular season within the next three weeks.
Right now, the names you hear circulating for these job openings feature guys at Group of 5 schools who are having terrific seasons. Memphis’ Justin Fuente, Houston’s Tom Herman, Temple’s Matt Rhule and Bowling Green’s Dino Babers have all been linked to multiple schools looking for their next head coach. All of these coaches have been getting recognition (deservedly so) for the jobs they’ve done in turning around their programs and leading them to great starts to this season. At least one of the four will probably be coaching somewhere else next season. That’s the reality of college football, good coaches climb the ladder every chance they get.
However, there’s one coach who continues to rack up victories whose name never seems to come up when discussing the next guy to go after. That guy is Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo.
The Midshipmen are 8-1 so far this season and undefeated in American Conference play with their only loss coming at the hands of the current #4 team in Notre Dame. Their wins have all come in dominant fashion, with no game being closer than 10 points. That includes a 45-20 rout of #21 Memphis just two weeks ago. The Midshipmen are in position to play in the conference title game if they beat Houston next weekend.
Yet, for the success of this season, his name never comes up in the college coaching rumor mill. He’s been a part of the Navy program for 17 years and the head coach for eight so it’s possible that he just doesn’t want to leave. But, when has that ever stopped schools previously from contacting coaches. Texas has gone after Nick Saban multiple times, despite Saban being entrenched in the Tide program now for nine seasons.
Niumatalolo’s record at Navy speaks for itself. He’s the winning-est coach in program history with a record of 65-36. He’s had just one losing season in his tenure, the same number as Paul Johnson who was hired away from Navy by Georgia Tech. In his eight years at the helm of the program, the Midshipmen have never won less than five games, and have won eight or more in every season but one (2011). He’s 3-6 in games against Top 25 opponents, true. But, that record includes a four point loss to Ohio State in 2009 and a three point loss to South Carolina in 2011.
Is it because of the offense he runs? Navy runs a triple option style of attack that isn’t en vogue anymore at the major schools. Yet, Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech has shown that you can win with that offense, twice having won 11 games with the Yellow Jackets. The offense, while slightly antiquated, shouldn’t disqualify Niumatalolo from getting looks for jobs.
Keep in mind, that all of Niumatalolo’s success has come at a program that isn’t ever going to get the top 4 or 5-star recruits. In his eight full seasons as head coach, Niumatalolo’s highest ranked recruiting class according to Scout.com was 84th back in 2010. Currently, next year’s class sits ranked at 98th. Top recruits just don’t commit to go to the service academies. That makes his consistent track record of winning all the more impressive.
Niumatalolo has shown in his time at Navy that he can get the most out of any athlete that decides to play for him. What school wouldn’t at least inquire about a guy like that?
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.