Navy director of football operations Brian Blick followed a bunch of Arizona Wildcats-related accounts on Twitter—including ours, shameless plug—on Thursday evening, an eye-catching but perhaps meaningless development in UA’s coaching search.
That’s because, per the Washington Post, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo said he hasn’t spoken to Arizona about the head coaching vacancy despite being linked to the job by several outlets.
“I don’t go seeking jobs. It’s not like I’m calling people to check on jobs. I just try to do the best I can here,” he said in the report. “I feel like I owe it to my family if people call; I listen to see what they have to offer. Because of the success of our program over the years, people have looked at us. With that said, I’m still here after 23 years. It should tell you what I feel about the school.”
Of course, coaches say things like that all the time before taking another job. And just because Niumatalolo hasn’t personally spoken to Arizona doesn’t mean he hasn’t expressed his interest another way.
Niumatalolo is an obvious candidate for the job because the Wildcats almost hired him last time. They pivoted to Kevin Sumlin late, partly because then-starting quarterback Khalil Tate famously tweeted that he didn’t come to Arizona to run the “tripple option”—referring to Niumatalolo’s offense at Navy.
Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke is scheduled to hold a virtual press conference at 11 a.m. on Friday to discuss the head coaching search.
If you’re wondering why Niumatalolo could be a good fit, here’s what our Brian Pedersen wrote in his outline of possible candidates:
In an alternate universe, one where Khalil Tate doesn’t take to Twitter to voice his disdain for the triple option, Niumatalolo might be finishing up his third season at Arizona with vastly different results than those of Sumlin. Instead, the longtime Navy coach just got shut out by Army in the fog on Saturday.
That dropped the Midshipmen to 3-7 this season, a year after going 11-2. The 55-year-old Niumatalolo has won 101 games in 13 seasons at the service academy, overcoming a severe recruiting disadvantage by using a run-based offense that is hard to game plan against.
If paired with an power-conference defensive coordinator, perhaps current UA DC Paul Rhoads, using a gimmick offense might be just what Arizona needs to rebrand its program. And Niumatalolo’s Polynesian and Mormon roots could also pan out in recruiting.