A dishonorable discharge


A dishonorable discharge

The cutthroat college football landscape takes no prisoners, even (or especially) if you are the 15-year veteran coach at a service academy.

The Naval Academy fired its head coach, Ken Niumatalolo, in an undignified fashion, with Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk dismissing him in the locker room after the team’s double-overtime loss to Army. Niumatalolo is the coach with the most wins in the Navy’s history. The team has had double-digit wins just five times in its 129-year history, and Niumatalolo has three of them, including the only 11-win seasons in program history.

The Navy had fallen on tough times at the end of his tenure, winning just 11 games combined over the last three seasons and beating Army just twice in the last seven meetings. But the Midshipmen also have other problems to deal with, given that the Navy is focused on a different kind of recruiting. While most teams had fifth- and sixth-year players thanks to an added year of eligibility from the pandemic, the Navy did not, as the academy requires all students to graduate after four years. (The Army and the Air Force had no such requirements.)

The Navy’s class time restrictions are also different from its service academy counterparts, making practice more difficult to schedule, and all three teams must deal with military weight restrictions in their recruiting (which leads to smaller offensive and defensive linemen). And yet, Niumatalolo took the Midshipmen to 109 wins and 10 bowl games in 15 years. You would think that would afford him the dignity of not being fired in the locker room.

And yet, while recruiting and roster restrictions are different at the Naval Academy, feuds between athletic directors and coaches are universal. Even the Navy isn’t immune to the petty decisions that are made in the college football world. Now, the Midshipmen are going to be sailing out into the unknown in search of a new captain.

Given the history of the Navy, I guess it could be worse.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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