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Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper was fired by Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk immediately after a 23-3 loss to Air Force on Saturday. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo was not involved in the decision-making.
Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper was fired by Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk immediately after a 23-3 loss to Air Force on Saturday. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo was not involved in the decision-making. (Phil Hoffmann/Navy Athletics  )

Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper was fired by Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk immediately after a 23-3 loss to Air Force on Saturday. Head coach Ken Niumatalolo was not involved in the decision-making.

But Jasper was back on staff by Monday afternoon — without the offensive coordinator title but still the quarterbacks coach — after a conversation between Niumatalolo and Gladchuk. The head coach will take over play-calling duties.

“Obviously, as a head coach, you normally make those decisions with assistants,” Niumatalolo said. “I wasn’t involved with it. There was a lot of emotion after the game. Yes, I was surprised by it. But we’ve had discussions after that to try to hopefully mend this.

“Everybody’s mad. Anybody involved in Navy football. Nobody likes losing like that. . . . [Gladchuk] was very upset with the offense. And so, I get it. But I was not involved with it. I was actually in another part of the locker room, but it’s normally not how it’s done. But I guess we’ll all live and learn, you know.”

The Navy offense was one of the worst in the nation last season and has been even worse in the first two games of 2021. It ranked 121st in points per game (16.6) last season and is 130th, dead last, through two games this year with an average of five points. The offense ranked 124th in 2020 at 275 yards per game and is now 127th at 233. The Midshipmen have scored 23 points over their past five games, and their 68-yard total against Air Force was the fewest the program has posted in a game since 1966.

Navy ranked 12th in scoring offense and 19th in total offense in 2019 as the team went 11-2, with Malcolm Perry setting the single-season Football Bowl Subdivision record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 2,017. Jasper, who has been with the program for 22 years, has been quarterbacks coach for 20 and had been offensive coordinator for 14, is credited with being instrumental in the program’s turnaround in the past decade-plus.

Gladchuk said Niumatalolo asked if he would be comfortable with Jasper being retained as quarterbacks coach, in the interest of the team. Niumatalolo said multiple times during a news conference Monday that he didn’t think the firing was the right thing to do. Gladchuk agreed to the demotion and called Jasper “an outstanding quarterbacks coach.”

Gladchuk opposed the suggestion that he undercut the authority of his head coach.

“He and I talk constantly,” Gladchuk said of Niumatalolo. “A week doesn’t go by that we don’t spend an hour together, and we’ve been doing it for 14 years. He knows exactly my sentiments. He knows what the expectations are. I give him latitude to make decisions. I give him autonomy on many fronts, and I rarely intercede.

“But after the game Saturday, it was a different situation [that] surfaced. And not just in the moment, but it surfaced as a result of a number of concerns we’ve had in recent years. Typical of two professionals that understand the big picture, to be able to meet today in a very constructive manner and to talk it through and to come to an understanding that is in the best interest of the program is all that’s important.”

Niumatalolo called the situation “unfortunate” but said “cooler heads have prevailed.” The coach said he spends an abundance of time with the offense already, so there won’t be drastic changes outside of him calling the plays as the de facto coordinator. Niumatalolo declined to specify when the offensive coordinator position will be addressed.

“This is a frickin’ ruthless profession,” Niumatalolo said. “... Our athletic director’s not happy with the offense. Neither am I. We’re a proud offensive unit that has scored many points over many years and been very prolific over the years. To be where it is . . . none of us are happy.

“I get it. He’s the athletic director, and he wants some answers. I’m the head coach. I’m a big boy. I’m willing to sit down . . . and discuss things.”

Niumatalolo said he addressed the team, which was already unhappy with the start of the season.

“They love Coach Jasper,” Niumatalolo said. “. . . What I’ve told our team is, you know, fortunately, I was able to sit down, Mr. Gladchuk and we sat and talked. He’s the boss. There’s going to be times where things happen when you’re serving in the Navy Marine Corps and someone over you, an admiral or captain or general or someone, colonel, says something and you have to go. You can voice your opinion, then you move forward. And that was my message to our team.”

Note: Offensive assistant Billy Ray Stutzmann tweeted that he had been relieved of his duties after declining to adhere to athletic department vaccination mandates because of “religious convictions.”

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