Just when 2020 doesn't seem it can get more 2020, things like this happen. Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has apologized for accusing the Pentagon of politicizing the annual Commander-in-Chief trophy during a season turned on its head amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The crux of Niumatalolo's frustration was in the unbalanced scheduling for Air Force, Army and Navy, which compete every year for the trophy based on head-to-head matchups against one another. Army and Navy are scheduled to play 11 games while Air Force will only play two against the aforementioned academies. The Mountain West, of which Air Force is a member, opted to cancel fall football in August.
Niumatalolo told reporters on Monday that the lack of uniformity was unfair for handing out the trophy, of which Navy is the current holder.
"Where else in the country would you play for something of value and everybody's schedules are not the same?" Niumatalolo said, according to ESPN. "This is the No. 1 thing we fight for every year -- the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy. We're playing a full schedule. You got Air Force playing just two games? I don't think those people care."
"This is above us," Niumatalolo continued. "This is guys at the Pentagon making decisions. I have no idea where they're getting their data from. They didn't get it from me, so they're not getting any football data. Like I said, nobody asked me."
Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk informed the Baltimore Sun that superintendents from all three academies greenlit the plan to play for the trophy in 2020. The Navy coach then issued an apology for his comments.
"I should not have said some of the stuff I said and I'm sorry I did," Niumatalolo told the Capital Gazette. "The Pentagon has nothing to do with this and it was wrong of me to suggest that was the case. I sometimes get myself in trouble by speaking my mind. This was an instance when I should have kept my thoughts to myself."
Navy is scheduled to play at Air Force on Oct. 3 and Army on Dec. 12. Air Force and Army will play on Nov. 7.