You can say he wasn’t offered the job, you can say he passed on it — either way, Ken Niumatalolo isn’t leaving Navy for Arizona.
SI’s Bruce Feldman and ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg tweeted as much on Sunday.
Niumatalolo later confirmed as much in a text message to ESPN’s Heather Dinich, saying, “After much prayer and pondering, it has become crystal clear the USNA is a special place with special people and I LOVE IT HERE!!! Plus I have unfinished business to finish.”
This is the second time in three years Niumatalolo has heavily flirted with leaving the Naval Academy only to ultimately remain in Annapolis. He did the same “I’m passing/We never offered you” dance with BYU, leading the Cougars to hire Kalani Sitake.
It’s hard to believe the Niumatalolo-Arizona courtship wasn’t heavily impacted by a since-deleted tweet Wildcats quarterback Khalil Tate fired off on Friday, saying he didn’t come to Tucson to run the “tripple (sic) option.” There is thought within the coaching community that Niumatalolo run the triple option at Navy because it’s the attack best suited for the Midshipmen’s program and the type of players it can recruit and, thus, he would modify his offense at a new school.
But then again, until Niumatalolo actually leaves Navy, how could anyone possibly know? Since 1995, Niumatalolo has spent all but three seasons in Annapolis.
Regardless of the circumstances, Niumatalolo’s return is a good thing for Navy. At 84-48, he is the most successful coach in the Academy’s modern history. His 2015 season, in which the Middies went 11-2, won the AAC West and finished the year ranked No. 18 in the polls, is the Academy’s best since a No. 2 finish in 1963, when the club was quarterbacked by Heisman winner Roger Staubach.
With Niumatalolo out of the picture, expect Arizona to move on to its next candidate quickly, perhaps as early as today.