Navy football Coach Ken Niumatalolo was absent from campus Friday as reports swirled that he was a leading candidate for the same position at Arizona.
The Arizona Daily Star, which first reported the news that Niumatalolo had interviewed for the position in Tucson, and FootballScoop.com both reported Friday afternoon that Niumatalolo has been offered the job.
The Washington Post confirmed through two people with knowledge of the situation that Niumatalolo, 52, was at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Charlotte on Monday but missed previously scheduled meetings on Tuesday. He was not present as expected at Navy football offices on Thursday or Friday, one of the people said.
Neither Niumatalolo nor Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk responded to text or voice messages from The Post seeking comment.
Niumatalolo is the winningest coach in Midshipmen program history with a record of 84-48. He recently capped his 10th full season as a head coach, all in Annapolis, with a 49-7 win over Virginia in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28.
The Arizona job came open when Rich Rodriguez was fired Jan. 2 amid allegations of sexual misconduct brought by a former athletic department employee.
Niumatalolo was reportedly recommended to replace Rodriguez by Dick Tomey, who coached Arizona from 1987 until 2000. The two are friends and share a link to the University of Hawaii, where Tomey was head coach from 1977 to ’86 and Niumatalolo lettered for three seasons as quarterback before graduating in 1989.
Niumatalolo, who is Mormon, has entertained coaching opportunities outside of Annapolis before, most seriously when the head-coaching vacancy opened at Brigham Young in 2015. The Hawaii native traveled to Provo, Utah, in December of that year but ultimately declined the job offer to stay at Navy.
The reports of Niumatalolo’s candidacy at Arizona also raised at least one alarm within the Wildcats program. In a tweet he has since deleted, standout quarterback Khalil Tate voiced his displeasure at the thought of switching from the spread offense used by Rodriguez to the triple-option scheme run by Niumatalolo.
Tate, who would be a junior next season, took over as Arizona’s starter in the fifth game of last season and immediately made a name for himself. He threw for 1,591 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions and added 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns rushing in 11 games overall last season. The California native was the first Wildcats player to have three games of at least 200 rushing yards in a season.