Heather DineshSenior writer for ESPN3 minutes to read
University of California ex hired Navy The school announced on Friday that head football coach Ken Niumatalulu has been named the Bruins’ director of leadership.
Winning Navy coach Niumatalulu was fired for his locker after a 20-17 double overtime loss to his rival army In Philadelphia in December.
In his new role, Niumatalolo — best known for his players’ alumni, honest approach and avoidance of NCAA wrongdoing — will serve as a consultant to UCLA’s football staff and players, according to the school’s release.
Niumatalulu told ESPN on Friday that although there were some other opportunities that had more to do with the coaching title, UCLA “felt right” about him because of past ties with the district. There were also strong links with current staff, including his former son Utah Tight end Ali Niumatalolo, who was recently hired as a graduate assistant on the offensive line. Former Navy assistant coach Bryce McDonald is the head football team at UCLA, and UCLA assistant coach Brian Norwood is one of Niumatalulu’s best friends.
“I feel lucky,” said Niumatalolo, who has recruited the West Coast throughout his career. “I am really excited to work with the coach [Chip] Kelly. I don’t feel like UCLA is far away. He and I have talked about some of his vision of what he’s seeing in the position which I’m really excited about.
“He’s just telling you about his status as a coach. He’s a well-established coach, and I’ve never been threatened by me or anything, and he doesn’t worry about anyone looking over his shoulder. That’s how Chip looks at it—anything I might add. They’re not far away, all I can Bring it on, but I felt it just fine.”
During 15 seasons leading Navy, finishing with a 109-83 record, Niumatalolo has won six of 10 bowl games, both of which are school records. No head coach had won eight straight games in the Army-Navy Series until Niumatalolo began his career with such distinction (2008-15), and his ten wins overall is considered the most in the rivalry’s history. Niumatalulu’s teams have received the Commander in Chief’s Trophy, awarded annually to the Military Service Academy team with the best regular season record against the other two teams, a program record six times. Niumatalulu also joined Wayne Hardin as the only Navy coaches to win Notre Dame three times.
However, the midshipmen have been struggling lately. They finished with four or fewer wins in three straight seasons and were 2-5 against both Army and air forces Since 2016.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk’s decision to fire Niumatalolo wasn’t entirely surprising, but it was the unceremonial manner in which he chose to do it that drew backlash from former Navy players, coaches, donors, and alumni. Niumatalulu told ESPN in December that he had asked Gladchuk to finish the remaining year of his contract.
Niumatalolo’s 2015 team won a program-record 11 games, a feat later equaled in 2019 as both teams finished in the Associated Press Top 20 of the last 25 games, something a Navy team had not done since 1963. The Midshipmen participated in the Athletic Conference The American in 2015 and was an immediate hit, with the 2015 and 2019 teams winning first place in the West Division and the 2016 team winning the division outright.
Considered the second Polynesian coach in FBS history and the first Samoan coach at any level, Niumatalulu was selected to the inaugural class of the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame in 2013.
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