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Navy athletic director addresses events surrounding firing, rehiring of football assistant Ivin Jasper

Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk (left) and head coach Ken Niumatalolo have engaged in many discussions over the years about the direction of the Navy football program and said "our dialogue has always been constructive, has always been well intended and has always been in the best interests of the program."
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk (left) and head coach Ken Niumatalolo have engaged in many discussions over the years about the direction of the Navy football program and said "our dialogue has always been constructive, has always been well intended and has always been in the best interests of the program."

On Thursday, athletic director Chet Gladchuk gave a frank assessment of the events that have dominated the conversation surrounding the Navy football program this week.

Gladchuk talked honestly about what happened following Saturday’s 23-3 loss to Air Force when he fired offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper in the locker room.

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During an interview with the Sing Second Sports podcast, Gladchuk spoke about his actions in the wake of watching an offensive performance that saw Navy amass only 68 total yards and six first downs. The Midshipmen managed just 36 rushing yards and went three-and-out on eight of 12 possessions.

“I did feel as though we fell short Saturday of the expectations, which were such that we would put things together and come out and be highly competitive,” Gladchuk said. “When we fall short and don’t meet those expectations, it brings some concern.”

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Gladchuk went into the locker room and listened to head coach Ken Niumatalolo address the players and staff. As usual following a tough loss, the 14th-year mentor was “always consoling, always positive and always encouraging,” Gladchuk said.

Gladchuk acknowledged that he then went into the coaches locker room and asked two other assistants to step out so he could speak privately to Jasper.

“Ivin and I had a conversation — it was brief but nevertheless it was direct and man-to-man. What I said to Ivin was straight up,” Gladchuk said. “I felt compelled as the director of athletics to address it in a way that was clear and concise.”

However, Gladchuk said he maintained an open mind and was willing to discuss the situation further with Niumatalolo. He said the two men have engaged in many discussions about the direction of the football program over the years and this situation was no different.

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“I think if you talk to Coach Niumat, he will say that our dialogue has always been constructive, has always been well intended and has always been in the best interests of the program,” Gladchuk said.

Niumatalolo and Gladchuk talked at length on Sunday afternoon and again on Monday morning. Niumatalolo said Monday he told Gladchuk the Navy football program was stronger with Jasper as a member of the coaching staff.

Niumatalolo particularly stressed the importance of having someone knowledgeable about triple-option football to groom sophomores Tai Lavatai and Xavier Arline. Jasper is in his 20th season as quarterbacks coach and 14th season as offensive coordinator at Navy.

“Typical of Coach Niumat, he brings a very rationale perspective,” Gladchuk said. “After we discussed it, I agreed with him that Ivin is really important to our program, has been and continues to be a role model in many respects.”

Gladchuk noted Jasper’s two decades with the program and the critical role he’s played in Navy’s success over the years. Jasper has been responsible for tutoring every quarterback of the current triple-option era and was the primary play-caller for numerous seasons in which the Midshipmen led the nation in rushing and set school records for offensive output.

“In the context of business, it makes sense that the development of our young quarterbacks is critical in many respects to our advancement,” Gladchuk said. “I want Ivin part of the program, and I want him to help develop our offense as he has.”

While Jasper was reinstated as Navy quarterbacks coach on Monday, he no longer holds the title of offensive coordinator and Gladchuk has urged Niumatalolo to seek the input of the other six offensive assistants.

“We have a high degree of intelligence in that staff room. We have many coaches in that staff room that have varied experiences offensively at different institutions and can bring different perspectives,” Gladchuk said.

“I appreciate that Coach Niumat is going to broaden the aperture in terms of advice, counsel, insights, gameplan preparation etc., and rely on the advice and counsel of a broader constituency of coaches. With that, I hope that we can find some solutions,” Gladchuk added.

Gladchuk was hired as Navy athletic director in September 2001 and two months later fired football coach Charlie Weatherbie in the midst of a season that ended with a record of 0-10.

Gladchuk brought back Paul Johnson, Weatherbie’s former offensive coordinator, as head coach and the Midshipmen embarked on an unprecedented era of success. Navy football posted winning seasons capped by bowl berths in 15 of 17 seasons from 2003 through 2019.

However, the program has hit a bump in the road and is hoping to avoid finishing with a losing record for the third time in the last four seasons.

Gladchuk said he’s taken pride in displaying an unwavering commitment to Navy football in terms of providing resources and support. The veteran athletic director, who previously held that position at Tulane (1988-90), Boston College (1990-97) and Houston (1997-2001), said he maintains the “highest degree of respect and appreciation” for the Navy coaching staff.

“Nothing has changed in my mind in terms of supporting Kenny, supporting our midshipmen and supporting our program,” Gladchuk said. “If that means that Coach Jasper, for whom I have the greatest degree of respect, is an integral part of our game plan going forward then he needs to be part of the program and part of the solution.”

Gladchuk does not want Navy football to backslide to the level it dipped to from 1999-2001 when the record over three straight seasons was 3-30. He noted the challenges of competing in the American Athletic Conference as a reason to show a sense of urgency.

“What I want is a program that represents Navy properly and is putting its best foot forward at all times,” he said. “If we can recalibrate, if we can continue to work together and continue to support each other… that to me is the way ahead.”

Gladchuk has drawn extensive criticism from Naval Academy alumni, fans and supporters on social media for the sequence of events that resulted in Jasper’s firing then rehiring. He reiterated the administration’s commitment to fielding a winning football program.

“I feel strongly that we’ve worked diligently for 20 years to put an infrastructure in place at the Naval Academy that is proven, has been successful and has a wonderful track record,” Gladchuk said. “We all want the exact same thing. There is not anyone here that doesn’t get it, including Coach Niumat, Coach Jasper and Chet Gladchuk.

“There is no question we have a wonderful family environment. We respect each other, we support each other, we love each other in many respects.”

However, winning is the bottom line and when that does not happen consistently it is the athletic director who must step forward and demand answers, Gladchuk said.

“You’ve got to win. We have to be in a position where we are pursuing excellence and achieving the success that’s expected,” he said. “When those expectations fall woefully short, they have to be addressed.”

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Gladchuk felt good that he and Niumatalolo were able to talk through the issues that led to the latest speed bump in a “constructive manner.” He said the result of conversations held Sunday and Monday reflected his confidence, belief and trust in Niumatalolo, the all-time winningest coach in Navy football history with a 101-69 record.

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“When we’re able to sit back and talk about the bigger picture and agree that we do need some adjustments, do need some changes… our minds go to constructive thinking and a recalibration of how we’re thinking and what we do,” Gladchuk said.

Gladchuk insisted there was “not a shred” of animosity or disrespect that resulted from this week’s events and believes the dialogue was as “constructive as you can possibly have between professionals that want the exact same thing.”

“Nothing changes in the mind of the athletic director in terms of support for a head coach that I believe in,” Gladchuk said. “I just want to help him get there, and if I’ve got to be difficult at times to deal with because I’m sending a message of insistence, support and expectation.”

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