Navy Must Schedule Ken Niumatololo’s San Jose State Spartans

Ken Niumatolo is due for a return trip to Navy and appropriate honors. The makeup of Navy’s schedule and Niumatololo’s unceremonious exit make this a must.

Navy and San Jose State are tied 2-2 in four games against one another.
Source: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The coaching carousel tirelessly spins on each offseason with college football fans desensitized to its every move. Each year brings its usual moves of upward mobility and the resulting reactionary moves that follow. Few coaching changes are true feel-good stories.

This offseason, there was at least one feel-good hire. After the Nick Saban Domino Effect forced San Jose State to lose arguably its greatest coach, they made a surprising hire. Instead of pursuing a rising FCS name, they turned to a proven name looking for redemption. The Spartans hired Ken Niumatolo, a little over a year removed from his unceremonious firing after the 2022 Army-Navy Game.

Niumatololo is the winningest head coach in Navy history, but his influence extends beyond wins and losses. He is one of the most respected coaches in college football. Hardly any coach, except for his Service Academy counterparts, did more with less. It is impossible to tell the story of Navy Football without Coach Niumatolo.

Consequently, it is fair that Navy gives him a return game and the farewell he deserves. Niumatololo claimed Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk fired him while he was "sitting by himself at his locker" after the 2022 Army-Navy Game. While it was due time for the Midshipmen to make a change, the Academy could have allowed him to step away with dignity and resign after the season. A return game bringing San Jose State to Annapolis will not fully mend the wounds from Niumatololo's firing, but it is a start.

Additionally, it would add some variety to Navy's non-conference schedule. The Midshipmen have the least non-conference flexibility of any FBS school. In addition to their eight-game AAC slate, the Midshipmen play Air Force, Army, and Notre Dame every year.
Navy usually fills that last non-conference slot with an FCS game. In the next three years, Navy will do exactly that. While these games help ensure the Midshipmen do not go winless, these games hardly excite the fanbase. A home-and-home series against a former coach and a fellow Group of Five program will do much to engage the Navy fanbase. Navy's absence in the Military Bowl has prevented Midshipmen fans from seeing their team play more teams than the usual AAC suspects at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. In short, Navy could benefit significantly from even just a hint of scheduling variety.

A Ken Niumatololo return series is necessary for the Midshipmen. It would provide a proper farewell and honors for one of the program's most pertinent figures and add flair to a non-conference schedule lacking in that department. The only question is whether Navy's athletic department will put its pride aside and schedule the game.