Source tells FootballScoop Ken Niumatalolo has informed the search firm (DHR) handling Arizona’s search that he will no longer be part of the process. Multiple national and Arizona reporters have reported the same. Kenny is staying at Navy.
Niumatalolo has been at Navy for all but three of the past 23 seasons. He originally came to the Academy as the running backs coach on Charlie Weatherbie’s staff in 1995, then moved to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach two years later. He left for UNLV in 1999 but returned in 2002 to join Paul Johnson’s new staff as assistant head coach and offensive line coach.
He was promoted to head coach in 2007, when Johnson left for Georgia Tech, and has since led the Midshipmen to an 84-40 mark in 10 seasons. Niumatalolo led Navy to six Commander-in-Chief’s trophies, nine bowl appearances, two American West Division championships and a No. 18 final ranking to close the 2015 season, the program’s best finish since Roger Staubach’s Heisman season of 1963.
Though Niumatalolo has been loyal to Navy, this is not the first time he has considered leaving in recent years. He strongly considered the BYU job in late 2015 (Niumatalolo is a practicing Mormon) but the two sides could not come to a deal and the Cougars ultimately hired Kalani Sitake.
Niumatalolo would have inherited an Arizona program fresh off a 7-6 season and an appearance in the Foster Farms Bowl. The Wildcats are led by dynamic quarterback Khalil Tate, who, despite hardly playing over the first month of the 2017 season, finished 17th nationally in rushing (trailing only Lamar Jackson and the quarterbacks at Army and Navy among quarterbacks) with 1,411 yards and a dozen touchdowns and ranked third nationally among all players with 9.04 yards per play on 332 total touchdowns.
However, Tate tweeted Friday (since deleted) that he is not interested in running the triple option.
Sources tell FootballScoop this tweet spooked Arizona’s president and gave him pause during the search. Arizona and Niumatalolo were already well into negotiations at this point sources tell FootballScoop. Saturday morning both the search firm and Niumatalolo thought they would get a deal done we are told; but University leadership had yet to fully approve the hire. Later Saturday the public began to see tweets DHR hoped would begin to sway Arizona leadership back in support of Niumatalolo; but it appears those tweets (from writers and coaches) were about two days too late. Some might suppose the firm should have been more proactive in addressing known potential concerns of star players; but alas some seem to value secrecy over hiring the right man.
So, where does the search turn from here? Beau Baldwin and Kevin Sumlin were the two names high on the list throughout the search. Could one of them now be offered the job? Or, do they decide Marcel Yates is already here, the players like him, let’s give him a shot?
As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest in coaching job information.