- Associated Press - Monday, September 13, 2021

Longtime assistant Ivin Jasper is staying with the Navy coaching staff after another bad loss left his status in limbo.

The Midshipmen did part ways with another member of their staff - offensive assistant Billy Ray Stutzmann says he’s been dismissed after he was unable to follow the academy’s COVID-19 policy for religious reasons.

On a dramatic day for the struggling program, coach Ken Niumatalolo said athletic director Chet Gladchuk decided to fire Jasper - the team’s offensive coordinator for over a decade - after Navy‘s listless performance against Air Force on Saturday. But after further discussion, Jasper will remain in his other role as quarterbacks coach. Niumatalolo will call plays.

“It was an unfortunate situation. There’s some emotion involved, obviously, but we just lost a big game,” Niumatalolo said. “I think cooler heads have prevailed.”

Navy went 3-7 last year, only its third losing season in 18 years. The team’s option attack fizzled, and the Midshipmen have dropped their first two games this season by a combined score of 72-10. Navy lost a nationally televised game to Air Force 23-3 on Saturday, and the Midshipmen managed only one first down before the fourth quarter.

That was followed by the initial decision to relieve Jasper - in his 14th year as offensive coordinator and 20th as quarterbacks coach - of his duties.

“I don’t think Mr. Gladchuk was too happy the way things transpired. He’s the leader of our department, and he made the decision after the game that he was going to let Coach Jasper go,” Niumatalolo said. “None of us were happy. A lot of emotions after the game - to lose to a rival like that, we didn’t play well on offense.”

Niumatalolo, who is in his 14th season as Navy‘s head coach, said losing Jasper wasn’t the answer.

“Obviously, we’re not playing well now on offense, but the things that he’s done for this school and this program over the years has been monumental,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s beloved by people. He’s beloved by his players. He’s a great developer of quarterbacks but also of men, guys that are serving our fleet in our Navy Marine Corps.”

Stutzmann, in his third season as an offensive assistant at Navy, posted a message on Twitter saying he’d been dismissed.

“The Naval Academy Athletic Association policy regarding COVID-19 requires all coaches and staff to be vaccinated against this virus. Based on my religious convictions, and after much thought and prayer, I am unable to follow the requirements of the Naval Academy’s COVID-19 policy, as it has changed these last few months,” Stutzmann said. “After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy. I continue to stand firm in my conviction of faith, but I understand and respect that each individual and institution has a choice on how they wish to manage these issues.”

Niumatalolo let Stutzmann‘s statement speak for itself, but said it’s a big loss for the team.

“He’s added a lot to our program,” Niumatalolo said. “Wish him the best of luck, he and his wife Shanelle. Wonderful young man. Got a bright, bright future in this profession.”

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