Ken Niumatalolo

Saban, Harbaugh, Meyer among Maxwell Football Club coach of the year semifinalists

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer are among 16 remaining candidates for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club.

Saban is the only coach from the SEC listed as a semifinalist, and he has never won the award that was first presented in 1989 to Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Gene Stallings is the only Alabama coach to win the award, doing so in 1992. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen was the first SEC coach since 1998 (Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer) to win the award, in 2014.

Meyer and Mike Leach are the only semifinalists to previously win the award. Meyer won the award in 2004 at Utah and Leach took the award in 2008 with Texas Tech. Penn State’s James Franklin could become the third Penn State coach to win the award, joining Joe Paterno (1990, 2005) and Bill O’Brien (2012).

The remaining semifinalists for the award are Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Neal Brown (Troy), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy), Scott Frost (UCF), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Chris Petersen (Washington), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan) and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin).

Finalists for the award will be announced on December 12 and a winner will be named on December 29. The winner will be presented with the award on March 10, 2017 in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the annual Maxwell Football Club Awards Banquet.

Navy drops anchor on Notre Dame’s bowl hopes in Jacksonville, 28-27

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Navy (6-2) clinched bowl eligibility at the same time Notre Dame (3-6) was put on the brink of bowl elimination in Jacksonville. A Will Worth pass completion on fourth and six to Jamir Tillman allowed the Midshipmen to run out the clock on the final possession of the game. Navy held the football for the final seven minutes and 28 seconds to hang on to a 28-27 victory.

With just over seven and a half minutes to play, Brian Kelly was faced with a decision on fourth and four. Kick a field goal and cut Navy’s lead down to one and hope the defense can get the ball back, or go for a first down and keep a drive alive. Kelly opted for a 31-yard field goal. Notre Dame’s offense never stepped back on the field until the postgame handshakes and alma mater performances. It was a critical coaching decision that appeared to backfire in a big way, although whatever happened on the drive it was pretty clear Notre Dame’s defense would need to make a stop either way. It did not, allowing two fourth-down conversions and committing a costly pass interference penalty on a third down on Navy’s final possession.

Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer passed for 223 yards and three touchdowns, but it was all for nothing as the Irish defense was unable to make a stop. Navy scored touchdowns on three consecutive possessions, not counting the final possession that ran out the clock in the second half.

Kelly has now lost to Navy twice (a dubious feat also accomplished by his predecessor, Charlie Weis), while Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo has picked up his third win against the Irish since becoming Navy’s head coach. Navy can now refocus its sights on competing for the American Athletic Conference title, while Notre Dame simply looks to find any reason for optimism.

Navy returns to American Athletic Conference play next week back home in Annapolis against Tulsa. the game will have high stake sin the division on the line. A Navy win will keep the Midshipmen atop the division with two conference games to play. Navy would have a minimum one-game lead in the division with a win against the Golden Hurricane, but Tulsa could take over first place in the division with a win and a head-to-head tiebreaker with Navy. Tulsa plays at home against East Carolina later tonight.

Notre Dame has one more service academy to play next week. Notre Dame will face Army in San Antonio next Saturday. The Irish are now on the brink of being ineligible for postseason play, unless 5-7 teams start getting invites to fill vacancies. Even then, Notre Dame may have a difficult road to travel to a bowl game. Notre Dame must win their final three games of the season just to hit the typical win minimum for bowl eligibility (six wins), or two of the final three to jump in the 5-7 mix. With games still to play against Virginia Tech and USC, Notre Dame could very well be staying home this bowl season.

Navy QB Tago Smith denied extra year of eligibility by Naval Academy

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It was considered a bit of a long shot for Navy quarterback Tago Smith to receive an extra year of eligibility from the Naval Academy, but today it became official. Smith was denied an extra year of eligibility by the academy, meaning his college football career is over.

Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the season. Had this been almost any other college football program, Smith would have had little problem filing the paperwork to the NCAA to apply for an extra year of eligibility given the circumstances. Things work differently in the service academies, however, and Smith needed to get approval from Vice Admiral Walter Carter, the superintendent of the Naval Academy. After reviewing the situation, Carter’s decision was made, and it was not what Smith had probably hoped.

“The mission of the Naval Academy is to graduate officers for the Navy and the Marine Corps,” Commander David McKinney said in a statement to The Capital Gazette. “This is a four-year academic institution and midshipmen are expected to graduate in that period of time unless the superintendent determines there is a significant reason why they cannot do so.

“Vice Admiral Carter looked at this particular situation and decided that is not the case with Midshipman Smith. While we are sympathetic to Tago’s athletic career, we aren’t an institution that exists to develop professional athletes, we exist to develop leaders.”

Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo could not help but feel for Smith upon learning of the decision. After backing up Keenan Reynolds for three years, Smith’s time as starter could not even last one full game this season.

“I would have loved for Tago to have the opportunity to come back, but I have to support the superintendent’s decision,” Niumatalolo said. “I just feel really bad for the kid. Tago has worked so hard and it’s heartbreaking to see his career end this way.”

Helmet sticker to The Capital Gazette.

BYU or Navy? Both wait for Ken Niumatalolo’s decision

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Shortly after coaching Navy to a 14th straight win over Army, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo made his way to Provo to meet with BYU leaders about the job vacancy in its football program on Monday. Now both BYU and Navy will wait to find out where Niumatalolo will decide to coach, it would appear.

“I suspect it will be a few days, but we shall see,” Niumatalolo’s agent, Evan Beard, said in a report by The Washington Post. “It could happen in the next 10 minutes, but look, he’s not going to make a hurried decision.”

“I love the Naval Academy,” Niumatalolo said on Saturday during an appearance on ESPN’s College GameDay. “I love what it stands for. But when this one opened up, it’s different. It’s just different for me.”

Niumatalolo reportedly landed in Provo on Monday to meet with BYU officials, but he was not expected to make any decision until his return to Annapolis. That would seem to be favorable for Navy, as the Midshipmen continue to prepare for Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl, which will be played in Navy’s home stadium.

2015 college football coaching carousel has two spots to fill (for now)

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With Louisiana-Monroe getting their new head coach all settled, this year’s FBS college football coaching carousel appears to be slowing down and coming to a close. There are just two more spots to fill, for now.BYU and Georgia Southern are the last two schools with vacancies currently open at this moment.

BYU and Georgia Southern are the last two schools with vacancies currently open at this moment. BYU is reportedly meeting with Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, who has explained why he might be interested in at least hearing what the school has to say about the job. Bronco Mendenhall is leaving BYU for Virginia but will remain in charge of the program through BYU’s bowl game matchup against Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. Perhaps Mendenhall will give Niumatalolo his endorsement of the job on his way out, although it should be noted Niumatalolo has a pretty good situation already with the Navy program.

At Georgia Southern, the search is on to replace Willie Fritz, who has accepted a position as head coach at Tulane. For now, Dell McGee is taking on the role of interim head coach as Georgia Southern prepares for its first bowl game in program history, the GoDaddy Bowl against Bowling Green (who, coincidently is also undergoing a coaching change). Which direction the school goes from here remains unknown, whether it promotes from within from anyone who sticks around, finds an FCS coach ready to take the next step or finds an assistant coach from somewhere else ready to try their hand at head coaching.

These two spots are still left unfilled, but it remains to be seen just what could happen to open up another position or two. With the NFL season coming down its home stretch, the NFL coaching carousel figures to once again keep some college coaches in the discussion, whether legitimate or not. Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly and UCLA’s Jim Mora have been names mentioned before, and could very well be thrown around once more. Keep an eye on the NFL coaching changes, because until that is filled, the coaching carousel will continue to be in motion, just in case.