Ken Niumatalolo's first assignment as Navy's head coach will be the Dec. 20 Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.
Niumatalolo takes over Navy’s top job
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For nearly 10 seasons, his name was the one that gave national broadcasters the most problems when Navy football was on TV.
Assistant coach Ken Niumatalolo gave up that distinction two years ago, with sportscasters mangling the name of the Midshipmen's quarterback, Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (Kapolei '04). Most have learned to shorten it to "Kaipo."
Beginning with the Dec. 20 Poinsettia Bowl, Niumatalolo's name can be shortened to "Coach."
The former Hawaii quarterback and assistant yesterday became the 38th head coach for Navy, promoted after another ex-UH assistant -- Paul Johnson -- took the head-coaching job at Georgia Tech earlier this week.
Niumatalolo will coach the Mids in their fifth consecutive postseason appearance when Navy (8-4) takes on Utah (8-4) in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego.
Ken Niumatalolo led Hawaii to the 1989 Aloha Bowl as a QB.
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It was quite a day for Hawaii quarterbacks ... past and present. Hours before current Warrior Colt Brennan was showcased nationally as a Heisman finalist, former UH signal-caller Ken Niumatalolo was introduced in Annapolis, Md., as Navy's 38th head coach.
"I am so humbled and honored to have this opportunity," the 42-year-old Niumatalolo said in a phone call from his Maryland home. "I know I'm representing a lot people, being the first Polynesian head coach. Hopefully, if I do well it will open doors for some other guys."
Niumatalolo, of Samoan descent, is believed to be the third former UH player to head a Division I program, the other two being current head coach June Jones (1973-74) and Larry Price (1962-64), who also coached the Rainbows (1974-76). Niumatalolo is also believed to be the first of Polynesian descent since Price.
Another former UH quarterback was promoted as well yesterday. Niumatalolo said Navy quarterbacks coach Ivin Jasper (1991-93) will be his offensive coordinator.
Niumatalolo replaces another former UH assistant -- Paul Johnson, who is leaving the Academy for Georgia Tech. Niumatalolo, who led Radford over Saint Louis for the 1981 Prep Bowl title, has had two stints on the Navy staff, the last six years were as assistant head coach and offensive line coach.
The Midshipmen are 43-19 the last five years and defeated Army six straight times for the first time in history. Navy also ended the longest losing streak to a single team in NCAA history earlier this season when beating Notre Dame for the first time in 44 years, 46-44 in three overtimes.
"It's been non-stop calls all day," Niumatalolo's wife, Barbara, said. "So many calls from friends, former players, other coaches. You don't realize how crazy it's going to be until it happens."
It's been a long time coming. After quarterbacking Hawaii to its first major bowl appearance (1989 Aloha Bowl), he was on the UH staff for three seasons. Niumatalolo joined Johnson at Navy as an assistant and offensive coordinator (1995-98), then went to UNLV (1999-2001) before returning with Johnson to Navy in 2002.
"I think it's a great move. Personally, I'm happy because we've got a coach who really knows the option," junior quarterback Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada (Kapolei '05) said after yesterday's press conference. "We got a curve ball thrown at us on Friday, but we woke up (Saturday) and found out we already have a new coach."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.