Former Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo was surprised by his recent firing, which he says came immediately after the Midshipmen’s loss to Army on Saturday.
In an interview with ESPN, Niumatalolo said athletic director Chet Gladchuk fired him in the locker room shortly after Navy’s gut-wrenching 20-17 double-overtime loss to Army in Philadelphia.
“First of all, we just got kicked in the gut,” Niumatalolo said. “I was a little bit numb prior to him saying that, so most of it I couldn’t comprehend. I’m just like, ‘Chet, why don’t you take some time to relax.’ He said, ‘Well, it’s been building up.’”
Niumatalolo had been at Navy for 21 seasons, including the previous 15 as the program’s head coach. He amassed a 109-83 record and is the winningest coach in program history. But Navy went 4-8 this season and 11-23 over the previous three campaigns.
Gladchuk said Monday that he made his “expectations” clear to Niumatalolo before the season.
“There’s no confusion with regard to what the expectations are,” Gladchuk said. “And I think they’re realistic. They’re reasonable. They’re attainable. They’re expected. They’re resourced. I can’t make it any clearer.”
Niumatalolo said he asked Gladchuk to let him finish out the final year of his contract. The Midshipmen are expected to have 22 returning starters next season.
“And if we lose next year, don’t worry about firing me. I’ll resign,” Niumatalolo said. “You don’t have to pay me a cent. I’m not looking for a raise, I’m not looking for anything. I just want to finish my contract. We’re finally coming out of the pandemic. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. I thought we stood for something different.”
“I’m a competitor,” he added. “It’s hard for me to think that we got the ball on the 6-inch line, and that’s my last game. That’s hard to fathom. If we win, he’s not firing me. How do you fire a guy after you win the Army-Navy game? That’s not going to happen.”