(Excerpts from interview in This Week with Dave Kawada radio show, Wednesdays 9:00a HST, ESPN 1420 AM, www.espn1420am.com)
Navy Head Coach Ken Niumatololo – raised in Oahu, Hawaii, former University of Hawaii player, assistant coach with Army HC Rich Ellerson (who also recruited Ken), former Navy assistant, 3rd year as head coach.
DK: Is it snowing out where you are?
KN: No it’s not. But Dave….it is cold (laughs). I was talking with some kids on the team from Hawaii. Couple are from Kailua and I asked them if this reminded them of the windward side (of Oahu). They just laughed and said….”It’s cold”.
DK: You have 6 players from Hawaii. Is that the most ever on a Navy roster?
KN: The most that I can remember. They kind of recruited themselves. When you have one local kid here, then the word of mouth gets around. It’s nice to have the local kids here.
DK: Do you get to bring them home for some good food?
KN: Well I know Wave (Rider) came home for Thanksgiving. That was a 4-day break and when he got back he looked like he was on Hawaiian time because he was so tired.
DK: How would you defend the argument that the Army – Navy game is the greatest college football rivalry?
KN: Well it is the only game I know of in which the entire student body from both schools attend. It is a game that affects not only those states and those schools, but people throughout the world. Before I came here the biggest rivalry for me was Hawaii vs BYU. Aloha Stadium was rocking and there was confetti everywhere. You know, the AD here told me that this (Army-Navy) game is different. I thought, “Yeah, I’ve been to rivalry games”. But he was right. It doesn’t even come close to this game.
DK: I enjoy the pageantry of all the cadets and midshipmen marching into the stadium, and the symbolic nature of the game throughout the world. You obviously don’t have to motivate your players for this game.
KN: Plebes (freshmen) don’t have many rights and can’t say much. But they can say, “Go Navy. Beat Army”. On our weights it says “Go Navy. Beat Army”. But these guys will eventually be protecting each other, in battle, in war. I have so much respect for West Point. But for this one day, we are going to beat each others brains out and get bragging rights.
DK: Is there any pressure to join a conference?
KN: Right now, no. Our athletic director Chet Gladchuk has done a great job scheduling our games and getting us bowl games. We are set for bowl games for the next 6 years if we are bowl eligible. We have great tv packages with the Notre Dame game and the Army game. But who knows with the changes in college football.
DK: What makes Ricky Dobbs so special?
KN: He is such a humble kid from Georgia. Every thing is based on his faith. He has a quiet confidence that permeates through our team.
DK: Where do you get most recognized by strangers? Is it walking around in Baltimore? On a Navy base? Or at Ala Moana Shopping Center (in Honolulu, HI)?
KN: Here on the east coast there aren’t too many 275 pound brown guys walking around. So I stick out. I would have to say here.