Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo arrived in Utah Sunday evening and is expected to meet with BYU officials on Monday about the program’s vacant head coaching position, per the Deseret News.
Niumatalolo and his wife, Barbara, declined to answer questions from reporters at Salt Lake International Airport on Sunday. But on Saturday, Niumatalolo told ESPN he’s considering the BYU job, which became open when longtime coach Bronco Mendenhall was hired at Virginia earlier this month.
“When this one opened up, it’s different,” Niumatalolo said before the Mids held off Army on Saturday. “It is just different for me. My faith is everything to me. This is the only reason that I feel like I need to listen to what they have to offer.”
Niumatalolo is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his son plays for BYU. He’s expected to tour BYU’s facilities and meet with athletic director Tom Holmoe and other officials on Monday.
It’d be an absolute home run hire for BYU to bring in Niumatalolo, who took over for Paul Johnson in Annapolis in 2007. The Mids will play in their seventh bowl game in eight years under the 50-year-old Hawaiian, and with a win over Pitt in the Military Bowl will finish in the AP top 25 for the first time since 2004, and only the second time since 1964.
BYU, though, doesn’t have as much going for it as Navy. The Cougars are independent, meaning they don’t have easy access to a New Year’s Six bowl. Navy came close to an at-large bid in its first year in the American Athletic Conference.
If Niumatalolo takes over at BYU in 2016, he’ll have to navigate a ruthlessly difficult schedule. The Cougars play eight games before their bye week: vs. Arizona (at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.), at Utah, vs. UCLA, vs. West Virginia (at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.), vs. Toledo, at Michigan State, vs. Mississippi State and at Boise State. After the bye, the schedule lightens up with a trip to Cincinnati and home games against Southern Utah, UMass and Utah State.
BYU’s 2017 schedule features a neutral-site game against LSU in Houston, home games against Utah, Wisconsin and Boise State and a trip to Mississippi State.
But if Niumatalolo were to bring his triple option offense to Provo and establish the same kind of program he has at Navy, BYU should be able to navigate those difficult slates into at least bowl eligibility. Niumatalolo is a fantastic coach — as someone who covers Notre Dame and sees Navy every year, I’m routinely impressed by the strength of that program — and likely would do well at BYU.