Ken Niumatalolo is beginning preparations for his 13th season as head coach while also taking on a new job that cuts even closer to his heart.
Niumataololo has accepted a position as the Stake President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints churches in the Annapolis, Md. area. For those not schooled on the structure of the Mormon church (like myself, until I wrote this article), every Mormon congregation is called a ward, and a collection of wards is called a stake. Niumatalolo's new position -- which is volunteer, like everyone who serves in each Church of Latter-Day Saints ward -- will be to oversee each of the wards in the Annapolis area, a rough equivalent to a Catholic bishop.
"President Niumatalolo is a very high-profile college football coach, but we found him to be a humble and devoted disciple of Jesus Christ," Elder Kevin Hamilton told The Church News, which broke the story. "He and his wife Barbara are faithful members of the Church and he will serve well as the new president of the Annapolis Maryland Stake. We were very pleased to be part of the process of identifying who the Lord had already chosen as the new stake president."
As the new stake president, Niumatalolo will visit the wards under his purview, meet with other ward elders, train new leaders, interview congregants and serve as the Annapolis area's liaison with church headquarters in Salt Lake City.
In other words, it's a skill set that directly translates to his day job -- except that his day job is already extremely time-consuming. Most Mormon stake presidents -- who donate around 10 hours a week, year-round, for their years-long term -- are retirees or people who work in less demanding jobs, not FBS head football coaches.
Niumatalolo has been extremely open about his faith for the entirety of his tenure as Navy's head coach. He appeared in a Church-produced documentary "Meet the Mormons" in 2014.
Niumatalolo has also been unapologetic about his conviction that his job as Navy's head coach is just one aspect of his life, not his entire life. Here's what Niumatalolo said on the subject in a 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.
I go to conventions all the time and I hear all these coaches talk about some of the regrets they’ve had in their careers, and these are all great coaches that have accomplished a lot of great things, and a lot of them mention, “I wish I’d spent more time with my family.” I don’t want that regret. I’d rather at the end of the day look yourself in the mirror and be like, “You know what? I was able to be a father and a husband.” And I want my coaches to have that same opportunity. To me, family time is very important. I’ve always taken this approach: if it takes you 24 hours to watch tape and you’ve been in the film room all day, how are your kids going to figure it out in a 45 minute meeting? You’ve just got to make sure it’s not that complicated, try to keep things simple. Don’t get me wrong, we’re working. We work early. I want to make sure our guys are efficient and go home and be a father and a husband.
“I’m very proud to be the head football coach at the U.S. Naval Academy; it’s a great responsibility and I love the job,” Niumatalolo said in 2017. “But it’s not the most important thing. Number one is being a husband and a father.”