We’re supposed to be unbiased in this job, but I can’t help but like Ken Niumatalolo. That’s largely because every word that comes out of his mouth makes perfect sense.
For instance, Texas, Notre Dame and LSU have come under fire for media policies they’ve implemented this month. Texas required — and then backed off to a mere suggestion — that reporters not tweet anything they learn from that interview until it is complete and they can go back and “listen for context.” Notre Dame severely limited what the media can report from its practices. And LSU simply isn’t allowing the media to see any of its preseason practices at all.
Nick Saban, of course, famously limits the amount of time his assistants can speak to the media — in season or out.
That’s not Niumatalolo’s approach. Reasoning that media coverage helps his program, Niumatalolo said this to the Washington Post:
“I mean, they’re all grown men. If I couldn’t trust them talking to the media, how the heck can I trust them to work for me? The assistant coaches are the lifeblood of your program. They’re the guys that go out and recruit, they’re the guys that actually work with your players. And if you can’t trust them to talk to the media … ”
That approach — “People can handle the truth, good or bad” — funnels into his overall approach to running his program.
“I guess it comes from this: We preach to our guys we want to help them, develop them as young men of character, and help them become leaders and fathers and husbands. I don’t know how you can teach people how to be a father and husband if you’re not tending to your own family and helping out your own family. So Sunday’s a time to go be with your family. … If Chick-fil-A can do it — and they’re a fast-food deal, and they’re still thriving — I guess you can close a day and still be successful.”
That answer harkens back to how Niumatalolo defined his job as head coach and father in this 2013 interview with FootballScoop:
My number one title is not the head football coach at the Naval Academy, my number one title is being a husband and a father. I read all the time about guys monitoring their players and stuff and I think that’s fine, making sure they’re going to class and all those things. That’s important. I’ve always thought, if you’re monitoring your players 24 hours a day, who’s monitoring your own family? Who’s watching your own kids? I make sure that we’re not burning the midnight oil here. I feel like we can be efficient in our work hours here. We’re probably more of an early morning staff, guys get here a little bit earlier but I want guys to go home after practice. I want them to go home and see their families. They can do their recruiting stuff at home….
Like I said, life’s too short, man. You can spend all day in the office 24/7, you can win national championships and do all these kinds of things but if you don’t see your family grow and see your kids grow, I don’t care how much money you make. It ain’t worth it.
Niumatalolo is different than most coaches. And different works for him.