The Navy Midshipmen turned a 3-10 record in 2018 into a stellar 11-2 performance in 2019. Their season was capped off by returning the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to Annapolis with a dominant victory over the Army Black Knights, and an impressive win against Big 12 opponent, Kansas State, in the 2019 AutoZone Liberty Bowl.
The key difference between the 2018 and 2019 seasons was the changes Coach Ken Niumatalolo made with the defensive coaching staff. Niumatalolo brought on Brian Newberry, from Kennesaw State, to head the unit, while also adding long time friend, Brian Norwood, to be Newberry’s co-defensive coordinator. Together, they significantly improved the Midshipmen defense from years past by incorporating a much more aggressive scheme.
Many Navy fans quickly identified the change in defensive performance once the season started. With that awareness, fear arose that the members of the defensive coaching staff would leave for “bigger and better things” (aka Power 5 schools), for it isn’t unprecedented for assistant coaches to use service academies as stepping stones to propel their careers.
Frankly, it makes sense. Come to a service academy and coach players who are smaller and slower than the rest of the teams they play against. Then, when you win the majority of the games, a reasonable person can deduce that the success is largely due to the coaching, vice the natural talent and ability of the players.
A perfect example of this process is what happened to Army West Point just last offseason. The Black Knights’ former defensive coordinator, Jay Batemen, left the program to go coach for Mack Brown as his defensive coordinator at North Carolina. Additionally, former Army wide receiver coach, David Corely, left to coach at Penn State, and eventually began working with the Houston Texans.
To even further expand on this point, all three service academy head coaches, Troy Calhoun at Air Force, Jeff Monken at Army, and Ken Niumatalolo, at one point all left a service academy as an assistant to become an assistant at another school, but eventually found their way to a head coaching position.
So, why exactly did Brian Newberry turn down job offers from four Power 5 schools, including UCLA, Syracuse, Washington State, and even Mississippi State?
Navy defensive coordinator, Brian Newberry, has officially turned down an offer to be Mike Leach’s DC at Miss. State.— Gavin Jernigan (@GavinJernigan2) January 22, 2020
If the coach picks Navy over a Power 5/SEC school, then the precedent is set for recruits to do the same.
There’s obviously something special happening at Navy.
Why hasn’t Ivin Jasper, Navy’s offensive coordinator for over a decade, taken a head coaching job or Power 5 offensive coordinator job despite running one of the most successful offenses in the country?
One of the team mottos this season was “Built Different”...and that’s clearly true with the Navy Football program.
The most significant offer Brian Newberry turned down was to be Mike Leach’s defensive coordinator at Mississippi State. Coach Leach is well-known almost solely for his brilliant offensive mind. For years while at Washington State, his teams frequently scored over 40 or 50 points in a game. However, his teams often struggled defensively.
Not only would Coach Newberry likely have signed a contract for significantly more money than what he was making at Navy, but he would have also likely had full reign of the defense. Taking the job at Miss. State would have given Newberry more money and a much bigger opportunity to make a name for himself to the rest of the country. He would have been the talk of the SEC Network, ESPN, etc.
Instead, he stayed in Annapolis as the defensive coordinator of the Midshipmen.
So, what does this say about the Naval Academy, the football program, the players, and the rest of the staff Newberry coaches alongside?
It says everything!
The Naval Academy, as an institution, is consistently ranked among the top universities in the country. It’s mission is to develop the future leaders of our world.
The football program has made tremendous strides in its facilities and its competition over the past few years, including two double-digit winning seasons since joining the American Athletic Conference and only three losing seasons in the past 20 years.
Each week, the television announcers rave about the tremendous sportsmanship, toughness, and pride that Navy football players display on every single down. Yes, Navy players are literally “Built Different” physically, but their mentality, discipline, and grit is significantly different from than your typical college football player, regardless of team or conference.
Finally, Coach Newberry’s boss, Ken Niumatalolo, is one of the best to ever coach the game. For parents, he’s the best man to trust your child with when you send them off to college. He’s one of the few coaches that maintains his humility and sees himself as a servant to his staff and players. In times of success, Niumatalolo gives all the praise and credit to his assistant coaches and his players. In times of struggle, his finger is pointed at himself and he accepts full responsibility. As a coordinator, there isn’t a better person to coach under.
Coach Newberry deciding against leaving Navy didn’t make national headlines. However, when you take a deeper look at the situation, you’ll start to realize that Navy is up to something special. Yesterday was National Signing Day. Naturally, there wasn’t a massive influx of 4 or 5-star recruits committing to Navy. Yet, with this program, there isn’t any doubt that the Midshipmen will continue to compete with Power 5 schools and dominate the AAC.