Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo led his program to the most wins, 11, ever in school history last season culminating with a 44-28 blowout win over Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl by Northrup Grumman. The Midshipmen lost just two games; one to 15th-ranked Notre Dame and the other to American Athletic Conference champion Houston. And Niumatalolo and his coaching staff did it by working less than they ever have.
Despite running one of the most difficult offensive attacks in the nation, Niumatalolo and his coaches did something this year that would leave most coaches around the country gasping. They took Sundays off. Yes, Sunday. The day after a game and the one day that coaches can watch film and prepare for the following week’s opponent. Hours of film, practices planned, scripts written. None of it was done in the Navy football office on a Sunday.
In an era where big time college football coaches work 80- to 100-hour weeks, Niumatalolo believes in a work-life balance. Other coaches in the profession claim they do the same, but how many give their staffs Sunday off? Navy even practiced less last season than ever before and hit less as well. How can anyone argue with the results? Navy had not had a two-loss or fewer season since Roger Staubach won a Heisman Trophy while quarterbacking the Middies in the 1960s until this year.
Navy’s signature triple-option offense takes a lot of work. Still, Niumatalolo believes it is the culture of the academy’s football program that wins games. “Culture beats strategy all day long,” Nimatalolo said. “Our culture is the way we come off the ball, the way we hold the ball, the way our wide receivers block.”
It is true. The Midshipmen fly off the ball and run over opponents. They are consistently ranked in the Top 5 in rushing offense in the nation each year. This season, Navy finished tied for second with Baylor averaging 326.7 yards on the ground each game.
Surely, Niumatalolo’s coaches put in some time on Sundays to prepare for the following opponent. They just didn’t do it at the football offices. With the success of 2015 behind them, the Navy coaching staff may consider taking Sundays off again in 2016. It may lead to another successful season and a bowl win like the one in this video.