The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy series is moving forward this season amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a strange landscape across the college football world, and Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo doesn’t understand why.
People at the Pentagon have pushed the series through despite scheduling conflicts and other pandemic-related issues, Niumatalolo said, even though they “have no idea what is going on with the programs.”
The Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy is awarded each season to the winner of games between the three service academy schools: Army, Navy and Air Force.
Navy is playing an 11-game schedule this fall. Army has a 12-game schedule, though had to reschedule and scramble after much of it was canceled due to the coronavirus. Air Force, however, had its season canceled completely after the Mountain West Conference suspended play this fall.
Air Force and Navy will play now on Oct. 3. Army and Air Force will play on Nov. 7. Navy and Army will close out the series on Dec. 12.
‘I don’t think those people care’
Niumatalolo was critical of the series moving forward last month, and said he spoke with Navy’s athletic director Chet Gladchuk about it.
Gladchuk, according to Niumatalolo, said it wasn’t his up to him.
“Chet and I talked, but this is above us,” he said, via the Capital Gazette. “This is the guys at the Pentagon making decisions.
“I have no idea where they’re getting their data from. They didn’t get it from me, so they’re not getting any football data. Like I said, nobody asked me.”
Niumatalolo repeatedly blasted the Pentagon broadly, though didn’t specify who there was making the decisions — something that is still unclear.
In his mind, however, the decision to play should be up to coaches, athletic directors and others who are directly involved with the programs.
“To me, those guys making decisions have never played football in their life. They don’t know how physical football is. We’re not playing croquet or anything. Football is a tough, physical game,” Niumatalolo said, via the Capital Gazette. “People made decisions on this that have no clue what they’re doing or talking about with sports. They made this a military deal. It’s not a military deal.”
‘I’m sure I’ll get reprimanded’
One of Niumatalolo’s biggest concerns with the situation is that Air Force is only playing two games this season compared to Navy and Army’s full, or near-full, schedules — which he doesn’t think is fair.
“Where else in the country would you play for something of value and everybody’s schedules are not the same?” Niumatalolo asked rhetorically, via the Capital Gazette. “This is the No. 1 thing we fight for every year — the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. We’re playing a full schedule. You got Air Force playing just two games? I don’t think those people care.”
Niumatalolo is in his 14th season with Navy, where he’s compiled a 98-61 overall record and reached a bowl game in all but two seasons. The Midshipmen suffered a blowout loss to BYU, 55-3 in their season opener.
While he was honest about his feelings toward the annual service academy series, the 55-year-old knows he’s sure to be punished for speaking out so candidly on Monday.
“I’m done speaking my mind. I’m sure I’ll get reprimanded,” he said, via the Capital Gazette. “I’m just the head football coach, but that’s how I honestly feel. It's not right.”
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