SJSU is pursuing Ken Niumatalolo as next head coach sources

SJSU is pursuing Ken Niumatalolo as next head coach, sources say – ESPN

  • SJSU is pursuing Ken Niumatalolo as next head coach sources.png&h=80&w=80&scale=crop

    Pete Thamel, ESPN January 20, 2024, 6:08 p.m. ET

San Jose State University has targeted former Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo as the school's next head coach, sources told ESPN.

According to sources, a deal is expected to be finalized within the next 48 hours. Niumatalolo brings extensive experience as a head coach but will vary his offense as sources told ESPN he is not expected to take the triple option at San Jose State.

Sources said Niumatalolo will prioritize hiring a young staff that includes an offensive coordinator who will bring some sort of wide-open, pass-heavy system.

Niumatalolo is Navy's all-time winningest coach, having gone 109-83 in his 15 full seasons there.

San Jose State athletic director Jeff Konya was looking for an experienced head coach who could build on the momentum of former coach Brent Brennan. He had led San Jose State to bowl games in three of the last four seasons. Konya also wanted to act quickly after Brennan left for Arizona on Tuesday.

With the expected impending hiring of Niumatalolo in the near future, Konya appears to have achieved both of the main objectives of the search. With San Jose's players eligible to enter the transfer portal, Konya has acted quickly to hire a coach who will bring stability, vision and experience.

San Jose State's candidate pool prioritized coaches with head coaching experience, and Niumatalolo has plenty of that from his time at Navy. He coached 192 games at Navy, including 11 bowl appearances and eight seasons with eight or more wins.

Perhaps most importantly for the Navy coach, he had a 10-5 record against Army, the most wins of any coach in the series. Niumatalolo's 109 career wins means he will arrive as one of the most successful and respected trainers in the Mountain West, as only Bronco Mendenhall (135), Troy Calhoun (130) and Jeff Tedford (127) have more career wins.

In 2015, under Niumatalolo, Navy went 11-2 in the American Athletic Conference with a 7-1 record and defeated Pittsburgh in the Military Bowl. In 2016, Navy defeated Notre Dame to reach the AAC title game, but lost to Matt Rhule's Temple team.

Niumatalolo, 58, is expected to focus his team on youthful energy and West Coast ties. San Jose State officials emphasized a largely open system that pools the Bay Area's recruiting resources for strong quarterbacks and skilled position players. That means hiring a potential offensive coordinator who will be a systemic linchpin for Niumatalolo.

He is a former quarterback at Hawaii who began his coaching career there and also worked at UNLV from 1999 to 2001. He also brings strong national recruiting relationships as Navy casts a wide net for its players.

San Jose State won the Mountain West title in 2020 under Brennan. He led them to three of the school's 11 total bowl appearances, including the Hawaii Bowl this season and the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last year.

Niumatalolo's role at UCLA in 2023 included the title of Director of Leadership. He spoke openly about going to UCLA to learn the intricacies of the transfer portal and NIL to prepare for another head coaching opportunity.

Niumatalolo said in an interview with The Athletic in June that another reason he moved to UCLA was to learn about Chip Kelly's offense, as Niumatalolo openly admitted he couldn't take on that option at his next head coaching stop.

“Not only am I learning portal and NIL stuff, but you’re also learning chip stuff,” he said in that June interview. “A lot of things come from here. I realize there are only three schools that offer this option. Coming here allows me, when the opportunity arises, to provide some things that could help me if I pay attention to the future.” –