Navy football assistant coach Billy Ray Stutzmann was fired Monday for failing to comply with an athletic department mandate that all employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Stutzmann posted the news to his Twitter account Monday and thanked Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo for the opportunity. Stutzmann, who was in his third season with the program, cited religious reasons for declining the coronavirus vaccine.
“Based on my religious convictions, and after much thought and prayer, I am unable to follow the requirements of the Naval Academy’s COVID-19 policy,” Stutzmann wrote. “After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy.”
The Capital had reported in late August that Stutzmann was not coaching this season. The Hawaii native, who holds the title of offensive assistant, has not been on the practice field or working out of the football coaching offices atop Ricketts Hall since August training camp began.
At the time, Navy athletics spokesman Scott Strasemeier told The Capital that Stutzmann “is currently working remotely on projects for the coaching staff.”
On Monday, Strasemeier confirmed the Naval Academy Athletic Association has implemented a policy requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Failure to do so results in termination of employment, Strasemeier said.
Asked about Stutzmann’s departure during his Monday online news conference, Niumatalolo called it “a big loss.”
“Billy Ray has added a lot to our program. He’s a wonderful young man who has a bright, bright future in this profession,” Niumatalolo said. “He’s smart and a great recruiter. He’s going to do great things in this profession.”
Stutzmann, in the statement posted to Twitter, said he had no regrets.
“I continue to stand firm in my conviction of faith, but I understand and respect that each individual and institution has a choice on how they wish to manage these issues,” Stutzmann wrote. “I wish Navy football nothing but the best in the future.”
Stutzmann described it as an honor to work for Niumatalolo and have the opportunity to learn from “one of the best in the business.” He thanked Niumatalolo and his wife Barbara for making his family’s time in Annapolis “very special and we are forever grateful.”
Stutzmann also expressed thanks for being able to coach members of the Navy football, calling it a privilege to be associated with those midshipmen.
“Coaching at the Naval Academy is a rare opportunity to build bonds with those who share a love of football and an even greater love for service to others,” he wrote.
Niumatalolo initially hired Stutzmann to assist with adding run-and-shoot passing schemes into the Navy offense. Stutzmann was a wide receiver in run-and-shoot offenses at the St. Louis School in Honolulu and the University of Hawaii.
Cal and Ron Lee installed the run-and-shoot offense at the St. Louis School then took their expertise to the University of Hawaii. The Lee brothers are disciples of the two foremost run-and-shoot practitioners — Mouse Davis and June Jones.
When Stutzmann was a wide receiver at Hawaii, Davis was his position coach while the Lee brothers were also on the staff that was led by Jones.
After coaching stints at Western New Mexico then Emory & Henry, Stutzmann returned to his alma mater in 2018 as an offensive assistant working with the wide receivers. He worked for head coach Nick Rolovich, who brought the run-and-shoot offense back to Hawaii after it had been abandoned following the departure of Jones.
Va’a Niumatalolo, son of the 14th-year Navy coach, was moved into an on-field coaching role to fill in for Stutzmann. Ken Niumatalolo said his son will remain an offensive assistant for the remainder of the season and will now be allowed to go on the road recruiting.
“We’ve made that change. We had to because recruiting is critical. We can’t lose that spot because recruiting never stops,” Niumatalolo said.
Va’a Niumatalolo has been assigned to recruit the state of Florida, assist with the offense in a variety of capacities and run the scout team.
Multiple sources told The Capital a member of the football program support staff also declined to be vaccinated and was fired Monday in accordance with the policy. David Mahoney, who was in his fourth year as recruiting coordinator for Navy football, was removed from the Navy athletic department website on Monday afternoon.
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Mahoney, a 2007 academy graduate who was a standout outside linebacker for Navy football, also has not been working in Ricketts Hall since August training camp began.