Navy football head coach Ken Niumatalolo announced Monday that Ivin Jasper has been reinstated to the coaching staff.
Niumatalolo said Jasper will strictly coach the quarterbacks and will no longer have the title of offensive coordinator. Beginning with the Sept. 25 game at Houston, Niumatalolo will take over play-calling duties — a development that is not new.
“I’m already heavily involved with the offense. I always have been. I’m the head coach but I have always been on the offensive side of the ball,” Niumatalolo said. “Coach Jasper will be with the program, and he will coach the quarterbacks. I’ll call the plays and we’ll continue forward. I’ve called the plays before.”
Niumatalolo did not learn about Jasper’s firing until he returned to the locker room after the postgame news conference. He immediately reached out to Gladchuk to ask him to reverse course.
“Obviously, to lose to Air Force like that was tough. I don’t think Mr. Gladchuk was too happy with the way things transpired, and he’s the leader of our department. He made the decision after the game that he was going to let Coach Jasper go,” Niumatalolo said.
“In my mind, I didn’t agree with the decision. It was not the right thing to do, and I asked Mr. Gladchuk to reconsider,” Niumatalolo continued. “There have been some discussions since then and Coach Jasper has been reinstated, which I’m grateful for.”
Niumatalolo acknowledged he did not know Gladchuk was going to fire Jasper and conceded it was uncommon in major college football.
“Obviously, as the head coach you normally make those decisions with your assistants. I wasn’t involved with it. I was surprised by it. It’s normally not how it’s done,” he said.
“It was an unfortunate situation. There is some emotion involved, obviously. There were some things that happened in the locker room, but cooler heads have prevailed. We’ve had discussions after that to hopefully mend what happened.”
Gladchuk and Niumatalolo met at length Sunday afternoon and the coach made his case that Navy football could not afford to lose an offensive assistant or the longtime quarterbacks coach. Gladchuk made it clear his decision to fire Jasper as offensive coordinator was final.
“We had a long discussion and I asked: ‘Is that the right thing to do? Is that the route we want to go?’ We still have a lot to play for,” Niumatalolo said. “I told Mr. Gladchuk we’re a stronger program and we have a better chance if Ivin is with us. He’s the best option coach around. Losing him was not the right answer.”
Jasper was initially hired by Navy in 1995 as an offensive assistant coach. He had played quarterback and slotback at Hawaii in the triple-option offense designed by Paul Johnson. When Johnson stepped down as offensive coordinator at Hawaii to take the same position at Navy under head coach Charlie Weatherbie, he brought Jasper and Niumatalolo with him to Annapolis to help install the unique system.
Jasper was in his 20th season as quarterbacks coach and 14th as offensive coordinator at Navy. He has developed a long line of triple-option quarterbacks, all of whom brought different styles and skill sets. Topping the list is Keenan Reynolds, a four-year starter from 2012 to 2015 who holds the Navy career rushing record with 4,559 yards and the Football Bowl Subdivision record with 88 rushing touchdowns.
Malcolm Perry enjoyed a sensational season as the starter in 2019, setting the FBS single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 2,017. Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada, Ricky Dobbs, Will Worth and Zach Abey were other quarterbacks who enjoyed success under the tutelage of Jasper.
“Coach Jasper has meant so much to this program. The things he’s done for this school and this program over the years have been monumental,” said Niumatalolo, noting he has known Jasper for more than 30 years. “You look at all the guys he’s coached — two NFL players. All the rushing records are by quarterbacks he’s coached.
“More importantly, he’s beloved by his players. He’s a great development of quarterbacks, but also of men. He’s developed a lot of young men who are fathers and husbands and have served. If Coach Jasper’s not here, it crushes all of us. It’s hard for me personally.”
Contacted by The Capital, Gladchuk confirmed he had been asked by Niumatalolo to reinstate Jasper in a different role and was willing to listen to his reasons.
“Kenny and I talked, and he asked me to reconsider keeping Ivin as the quarterbacks coach and not the coordinator based on the fact it could put us at some disadvantage, and I agreed,” Gladchuk said. “These young quarterbacks do need leadership and Ivin was the best person to provide that.”
Navy struggled mightily on offense Saturday against Air Force, amassing just 68 total yards and six first downs. The Midshipmen managed only 36 rushing yards against a Falcons defense that dominated the line of scrimmage.
Niumatalolo said he’s just as frustrated as Gladchuk about the state of the offense, which put forth a similar performance in last season’s Army-Navy game.
“Our athletic director is not happy with our offense. Well, neither am I. Everyone involved with Navy football is mad,” Niumatalolo said. “We’re a proud offensive unit that has scored many points and been very prolific over the years. To be where we’re at … none of us are happy.”
Niumatalolo noted that Gladchuk was demanding accountability and pressing for some changes. In his 14th season as head coach and 24th overall at Navy, the 56-year-old has always been willing to work with Gladchuk to make improvements to the program.
“We had some long discussions on Sunday, just trying to figure this out. He’s the athletic director and he wanted to get some answers. I’m the head coach and have been doing this a long time. I’m a big boy, so we’ll sit down and discuss things,” Niumatalolo said.
Navy has seven offensive coaches with Niumatalolo having significant input and Ashley Ingram holding the title of running game coordinator. Danny O’Rourke (offensive line), Jason MacDonald (fullbacks), Joe DuPaix (slotbacks), Mick Yokitis (wide receivers) and Va’a Niumatalolo (offensive assistant) are the others.
Niumatalolo felt bad that Jasper had to shoulder the blame for the collective failure of the offensive staff as it related to Saturday’s dismal outing.
“I’ve always been heavily involved with the offense, so I’m just as much to blame for all this, too,” he said. “We’re going to get things right. We’re not quitters. We’ve been in this profession a long time. We ain’t going anywhere. We have a lot to play for.
“I’m not excited about where we are offensively, not excited about being 0-2, but we’re not going anywhere.”
Niumatalolo took umbrage at the suggestion Saturday night’s firing of Jasper sent a message to the entire offensive coaching staff.
“We didn’t need any shot across the bow or wake-up call. We see where we’re at right now,” he said. “This is a fricking ruthless profession, and it will spit you out in a heartbeat. To be a coach isn’t for the faint of heart.”