ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk
already had a new coach in mind when Paul Johnson left for Georgia
Tech on Friday after six successful seasons.
Assistant Ken Niumatalolo was promoted to the head coaching job
"After the Army-Navy game, I kind of tapped him on the shoulder
and said, 'Hey Kenny, if anything comes about I want to talk to
you,'" Gladchuk said.
The decision was easy, given that Gladchuk wanted a coach who
would continue Johnson's potent triple-option offense.
"Fundamentally, at Navy it's going to be the triple option,"
Gladchuk said. "It's an offense that has been really successful
for us and given us that edge, that dimension. If you look at who's
out there that can run the triple option, I consider Kenny one of
Niumatalolo said it didn't concern him that Johnson might
continue to get credit for the Midshipmen's vaunted rushing attack.
"I don't really care whose offense we call it. We're going to
use it because it works," he said. "I've been involved with this
offense for 20 years. I've called the plays for this offense
before. I learned a lot from Paul about the various wrinkles and
how to make adjustments."
The 42-year-old Niumatalolo, who's of Samoan descent but was
born and raised in Hawaii, is believed to be the first Polynesian
head coach in NCAA history.
"Hopefully, if I do well it will open doors for some other
guys," he said.
Niumatalolo had two coaching stints at Navy for a total of 10
seasons, including the last six, when he was assistant head coach
and offensive line coach.
Johnson enjoyed unprecedented success at Navy. The Midshipmen
went 45-29 in his six seasons, including 43-19 over the last five
years, and recorded six straight wins over Army for the first time
"We want to continue to dominate the other academies,"
Niumatalolo said. "We look forward to keeping this machine
Niumatalolo played a major role in installing the triple-option
attack, which enabled Navy to set the school's single-season
scoring record this year. He will coach the Midshipmen against Utah
in the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20.
Navy led the nation in rushing in four of the last five years,
including each of the past three seasons, a first in NCAA history.
The Midshipmen are averaging a school-record 351.5 yards rushing
per game this year.
A 1989 graduate of Hawaii, Niumatalolo lettered three years as a
quarterback and led the Rainbow Warriors to their first postseason
bowl in 1989. He was hired as a full-time assistant by his alma
mater in 1992 and spent three seasons as an offensive assistant
Navy players praised the decision to hire Niumatalolo.
"I think it's a great move. Personally, I'm happy because we've
got a coach who really knows the option," junior quarterback
Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada said. "We got a curveball thrown at us on
Friday, but we woke up [Saturday] and found out we already have a