History Between BYU, Navy Is Brief But Connections Are Strong

Aug 6, 2020, 10:42 AM | Updated: Aug 7, 2020, 10:29 am
Ken Niumatalolo - BYU Navy...
ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Ken Niumatalolo of the Navy Midshipmen looks on against the Tulane Green Wave at Navy-Marine Corp Memorial Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Annapolis, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU takes on Navy on Labor Day night in Annapolis in front of a nationally televised ESPN audience. When trying to find a game on short notice, you can’t ask for much better than the one BYU landed in getting the Midshipmen.

The 2020 meeting will mark only the third time in BYU’s history that they’ve faced Navy on the gridiron. But the connections are strong between the two programs.

BYU last faced Navy during the Ty Detmer era in 1989. The Cougars won that game 31-10 in front of a crowd that would have been COVID-19 friendly back then with only 2,684 fans in the stands. Detmer tossed for 353 yards in that victory.

The other time the two programs met was in the first-ever Holiday Bowl in 1978. It was the aerial attack of BYU featuring young gunslingers Jim McMahon and Marc Wilson and the elite ground attack of George Welsh’s Midshipmen.

Navy’s game was too much for LaVell Edwards’ BYU program that was still seeking its first bowl victory at that time. BYU fell by a score of 23-16 in the first of many holidays spent in San Diego in the years to come.

2020’s matchup will be the first of a two-game series that Navy will later return to Provo in a future year.

Connections between BYU and Navy

Despite the lack of many games, BYU and Navy hold unique ties. Both represent something far bigger than a sport. BYU is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Navy, well, they represent a division of America’s finest and bravest men.

Both programs are coached by Polynesian men who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Navy is coached by Ken Niumatalolo who had in-person interviews with BYU’s board of trustees in 2015 when the school was looking to find its next head coach after losing Bronco Mendenhall to Virginia.

Prior to becoming a member of the American Athletic Conference in 2015, the Midshipmen were a longstanding Independent. Niumatalolo’s first seven seasons as head coach at Navy were leading the Midshipmen as an Indy program. So he understands the challenges that Kalani Sitake and BYU face as a current Independent.

BYU at Navy

Monday, September 7th

Kickoff: 6 p.m. (MDT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM/1160 AM

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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