BYU-Navy Matchup Features Connections Beyond Just Head Coaches

Aug 31, 2020, 12:51 PM

BYU vs. Navy - Kalani Sitake Ken Niumatalolo...

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake and Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo. Photos courtesy of Getty Images

PROVO, Utah – BYU football “game week” is here. The first opponent of what will be an unprecedented 2020 is against the Navy Midshipmen, a team that the Cougars haven’t faced in 31 years.

Despite the lack of matchups, this Labor Day night showdown boasts a handful of connections between the two programs that go beyond just the head coaches. But obviously, we will start things off with the two head coaches.

Kalani Sitake and Ken Niumatalolo

Both head coaches in this matchup are Polynesian, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and called Laie, Hawaii their hometown. Now they square off for the first time against one another as head coaches.

In a town like Laie that has only 6,138 people, it’s pretty remarkable to now see two head coaches square off against one another in college football’s spotlight game of week one.

In 2007, Sitake’s Utah Utes defense spoiled Niumatalolo’s head coaching debut in the Poinsettia Bowl.

Both men were considered the top two candidates to replace Bronco Mendenhall during BYU’s head coaching search in 2015. Niumatalolo traveled to Provo after the Midshipmen’s annual game against Army that season to meet with BYU’s Board of Trustees. Ultimately, Niumatalolo remained at Navy, where he has become the school’s all-time winningest coach.

Joe DuPaix

Navy slot backs coach Joe DuPaix was the recruiting coordinator and running backs coach at BYU for two years in 2011 and 2012. Prior to arriving at BYU, DuPaix worked at Skyline High School.

Pepe Tanuvasa

BYU currently has a linebacker that transferred from the Naval Academy in Pepe Tanuvasa. Tanuvasa is expected to be a contributor as an inside linebacker this fall. Last year, Tanuvasa was one of the stars of the Cougars scout team defense.

“That was a very cool experience being there at the Naval Academy. When I heard it first announced, it was definitely mixed emotions. I was excited to play against my friends still playing for Navy because I know the caliber of team that they are. I know coach Ken runs a very tight ship. So I’m looking forward to this game. I know it’s going to be a really good one.”

Va’a Niumatalolo

Va’a Niumatalolo is the son of Coach Ken. Niumatalolo played at BYU from 2014-2017 as a linebacker for the Cougars. Now Va’a is director of football operations for the Naval Academy.

Fisher Jackson

Jackson, a freshman defensive lineman at BYU, is a brother-in-law to Va’a Niumatalolo. Va’a married Jackson’s sister, Kenzie.

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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BYU-Navy Matchup Features Connections Beyond Just Head Coaches