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Navy coach Niumatalolo confirms he's staying

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, during a game against Air Force in October, 2017.

JOE GROMELSKI/STARS AND STRIPES

By AVA WALLACE | The Washington Post | Published: January 14, 2018

Days' worth of frenzied speculation over Navy football Coach Ken Niumatalolo's future at the Naval Academy was all for naught. Niumatalolo sent two text messages Sunday morning announcing his plan to stay in Annapolis despite having interviewed for the vacant head coaching job at Arizona.

"Let me just tell you so you know where I am at TODAY... so you will know exactly my future plans - BEAT ARMY!!!

"After much prayer and pondering...it has become crystal clear the USNA is a special place with special people and I LOVE IT HERE!!! Plus I have unfinished business to finish..."

Niumatalolo, 52, returns for his 11th season heading the Midshipmen. Navy opens its 2018 season with a trip to Niumatalolo's home state to play his alma mater, Hawaii.

Niumatalolo's announcement follows a Saturday night meeting with Navy Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk. Niumatalolo had traveled to interview at Arizona late last week, and Gladchuk told The Washington Post in a text message Saturday that before their evening meeting, Niumatalolo and Gladchuk had only texted about the situation with little detail.

Gladchuk commented on Niumatalolo's announcement with a text on Sunday: "First of all the Coach never mentioned to me he was going anywhere... I don't believe he told anyone he was leaving. My conversation last evening was centered around what a special place the Naval Academy is and how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to work with [and] influence some of the finest young men and also women at any university in the country. Dialogue in this context is quite convincing Navy is a pretty special place to be."

Niumatalolo had been unexpectedly absent from the Navy football offices on Thursday and Friday as reports swirled that he was a leading candidate for Arizona's head coaching job. The position was left open when Rich Rodriguez was fired Jan. 2 amid sexual misconduct allegations brought by a former athletic department employee.

Niumatalolo's return is welcome news in Annapolis.

This is the second time in recent years the coach has flirted with an outside job opportunity. In 2015, Niumatalolo, who is Mormon, interviewed for the head coaching position at Brigham Young that was left open when Bronco Mendenhall left for Virginia, but ultimately he decided to stay at Navy.

The former quarterback is the winningest coach in Navy football history, compiling an 84-48 record and nine bowl appearances in a decade-long tenure. He led Navy to victories over archrival Army in each of his first eight seasons and is beloved among the fan base both for his team's performance and for his reputation as an affable, highly principled leader.

As for the unfinished business Niumatalolo referred to in his text messages, Navy has lost the past two Army-Navy games.

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