Former Navy coach and BYU candidate Ken Niumatalolo joins UCLA staff

He lands job as Bruins’ director of leadership — an adviser to players and coaches

FILE - In this Dec. 31, 2019 file photo, Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo cheers his team on in the first half of the Liberty Bowl NCAA college football game against Kansas State in Memphis, Tenn. For the first time since 1989, Navy and Brigham Young University will get together for a football game at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., on Monday, Sept. 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Los Angeles • Former Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo is joining UCLA’s coaching staff as director of leadership.

The school said in an announcement Friday that Niumatalolo will serve as an adviser to the Bruins’ football staff and players.

Niumatalolo led Navy for 15 years and was the winningest coach in school history at 109-83. The Midshipmen, however, finished with losing records the past three seasons, including 4-8 the past two, and he was fired in December.

Navy played in 10 bowl games under Niumatalolo. He also was the only coach to win his first eight games in the storied Army-Navy rivalry.

In 2015, when BYU was looking to replace Bronco Mendenhall, Niumatalolo emerged as a top candidate. He interviewed for the job on campus. ESPN reported he was offered the position at one point, but declined. Ultimately, BYU landed on current head coach Kalani Sitake and Niumatalolo stayed in Annapolis.

When he was let go by Navy, some speculated whether BYU would have any interest in bringing him on staff in some capacity. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has roots close to Orem. One of his sons, Va’a, played football at BYU. He also has a close relationship with Sitake.

But after Niumatalolo watched one of BYU’s spring practices, he tempered those expectations. He said he would like to get back into coaching, he said, but it wouldn’t be at BYU.

The Cougars did have an open defensive coordinator position open this December, but has since filled it with former Weber State head coach Jay Hill.

“No, I am here to support Kalani and his program,” he said when asked if BYU was a possibility. “Obviously I have a great amount of respect for Kalani and what he has done. He has done an awesome job here, so I am just here to watch.”

Editor’s note • This story is available to Salt Lake Tribune subscribers only. Thank you for supporting local journalism.