Navy football Coach Ken Niumatalolo was back in Annapolis on Saturday morning after a two-day absence from campus to interview for the head coaching job at the University of Arizona.
The Washington Post confirmed through two people with knowledge of the situation that Niumatalolo, 52, traveled to interview at Arizona late in the week. He returned to campus Friday night and gathered his staff for a meeting Saturday morning.
Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk, asked for comment on the situation, replied Saturday afternoon by text: “Honestly I do not know what is fact versus fiction. I will be meeting with him later this evening for the first time since all this surfaced. . . . I have not talked to him but we have texted with little details. . . . As of this moment you know as much as I do.”
Niumatalolo declined to comment when asked for details of his whereabouts and communication with Arizona.
Niumatalolo is the winningest coach in Navy football history, compiling an 84-47 record and nine bowl appearances in 10 full seasons. (His first game was a loss in the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl as interim head coach.) He led Navy to victories over archrival Army in each of his first eight seasons and won fans both for his team’s performance and for his reputation as a genial, highly principled leader.
Navy’s most recent game, a 49-7 win over Virginia in the Military Bowl on Dec. 28, was the program’s largest margin of victory over a power-conference team since 1963.
At Arizona, Niumatalolo interviewed for a job that opened when Rich Rodriguez was fired Jan. 2 amid allegations of sexual misconduct brought by a former athletic department employee.
Niumatalolo, a native of Hawaii, has deep ties to Navy that stretch back two decades. He served two stints as an assistant coach for a combined 10 seasons before he took over the program, and he raised his three children in Annapolis. His eldest son, Va’a, recently graduated from Brigham Young University and said last month that he wanted to follow his father into coaching.
But despite his history, Niumatalolo has entertained opportunities outside of Annapolis before — most seriously in 2015, when he interviewed for the head coaching job at BYU that opened when Bronco Mendenhall left for Virginia. Niumatalolo, who is Mormon, traveled with his wife, Barbara, to Provo, Utah, that December to meet with officials at BYU but ultimately decided to stay at Navy.
Even then, he told The Post that he always would be willing to listen when other programs showed serious interest.
John Feinstein and Gene Wang contributed to this report.
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