Air Force will vie for the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy by playing just two football games this fall — against Navy and Army — and Midshipmen coach Ken Niumatalolo thinks it’s unfair, blaming officials at the Pentagon for making “this a military deal.”

Niumatalolo’s complaint is that Navy (11 games) and Army (12) are playing full schedules this fall, yet Air Force could walk away with the prize if they win the two games. The Falcons play in the Mountain West Conference, which postponed its football season until the spring.

“Where else in the country would you play for something of value and everybody’s schedules are not the same?” Niumatalolo told reporters Monday. “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. 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.”

Air Force is set to host Navy on Oct. 3, while the Falcons will play Army on Nov. 7. Army will face Navy on Dec. 12.

Navy won the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in 2019 after Army claimed it in back-to-back years, ending a 21-year drought. Air Force won its most recent Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy in 2016.

Naval Academy athletic director Chet Gladchuk told the Baltimore Sun that superintendents from all three service academies agreed to go forth with the plan, but that didn’t stop Niumatalolo from criticizing the decision.

“I have no idea who made those decisions. Probably guys [in the Pentagon] who should be making decisions on more important matters than football,” Niumatalolo said. “I wish they would worry about stuff other than football and let us make football decisions. To me, that should have been among the [athletic directors] and head coaches.

“To me, those guys making decisions have never played football in their life. They don’t know how physical football is. We’re not playing croquet or anything. Football is a tough, physical game. People made decisions on this that have no clue what they’re doing or talking about with sports. They made this a military deal. It’s not a military deal.

“I’m done speaking my mind. I’m sure I’ll get reprimanded. I’m just the head football coach, but that’s how I honestly feel. It’s not right.”


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