Wanted at Navy: continuity

Academy seeks to stay `glued together'

Johnson goes to Georgia Tech

December 08, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

After learning yesterday that football coach Paul Johnson was leaving for Georgia Tech, Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said keeping the continuity in a successful program could be a significant factor in finding Johnson's replacement.

"I think it's really important to keep as much of this glued together as I possibly can," Gladchuk said. "We've got a really good program here in terms of facilities, resources, fan base, television, bowl opportunities. Five years ago, it was all of a vision. Today, it's a reality."

Gladchuk said Johnson would not coach the Midshipmen in the Poinsettia Bowl against Utah on Dec. 20 in San Diego. Assistant head coach Ken Niumatalolo would become the team's interim head coach in preparation of Navy's fifth straight bowl appearance.

Niumatalolo will likely get "strong consideration" for the head coaching job, Gladchuk said.

Johnson, 50, left after turning the Midshipmen from the worst of the three service academy programs into the most dominant.

Inheriting a team that went 1-20 in the two seasons before he arrived in 2002 and 2-10 in his first season, the Mids were 43-19 the past five years and won the Commander in Chief's Trophy each year.

Johnson's name previously had been mentioned as a leading candidate at Duke and Southern Methodist. According to a university spokesman, Johnson told his players he was leaving at a meeting yesterday in Annapolis.

In going to Georgia Tech, which recently fired Chan Gailey after a 7-5 season, Johnson will be returning to his head coaching roots, having led Georgia Southern to two Division I-AA national championships in five seasons there.

During a news conference yesterday in Atlanta, Johnson said he met with the search committee Sunday and had a good feeling about it.

"It seemed like a match made in heaven to me," Johnson said. "I was looking forward to moving back to the state of Georgia, where we had such a good time at Georgia Southern for five years. To have the opportunity to come to an institution that is held in such high regard academically, not only the football, but the academic side, it's a dream come true."

Terms of Johnson's new contract have not been announced, but according to a report earlier this week in USA Today, Johnson was making slightly more at Navy ($1,049,311) than Gailey was at Georgia Tech ($1,039,347).

With the rumors constantly swirling around Johnson again this season - particularly after the Mids beat Notre Dame last month - Gladchuk said he was not surprised by Johnson's decision.

"I know that he really has had tremendous feelings and allegiance to the Naval Academy," Gladchuk said. "It was a matter of, I think, when the right opportunity came about."

Johnson had a six-year contract at Navy that rolled over after each season, and Gladchuk said there was a buyout that approached seven figures. Johnson's contract at Georgia Tech likely will include funds to cover the buyout.

There is some debate about whether Johnson's run-oriented offense can work in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Bobby Ross, who won a national championship at Georgia Tech and retired earlier this year after a three-season stint at Army, said that Johnson will be a good fit and that he had experience running a passing offense while he was offensive coordinator at Hawaii.

"He's just a sharp football coach," Ross said from his home in Lexington, Va. "He knows the game well, and he knows what it takes to win. He'll adjust to whatever he thinks he needs to adjust to. He might change it a little bit, because it'll help him recruit."

As for Navy, Ross said Johnson's departure might give the coaches and players at the other service academies some hope of catching up with the Mids.

"Paul certainly has dominated in the time that he's been there, like nobody has ever dominated," Ross said.

don.markus@baltsun.com

JOHNSON AT NAVY

Year by year

2002: 2-10

2003: 8-5, lost in EV1.net Houston Bowl

2004: 10-2, won Emerald Bowl

2005: 8-4, won Poinsettia Bowl

2006: 9-4, lost in Meineke Car Care Bowl

2007: 8-4, accepted bid to Poinsettia Bowl

Highlights

Won Commander in Chief's Trophy 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007.

Went 6-0 vs. Army.

Went 5-1 vs. Air Force

Defeated Notre Dame for the first time since 1963

Led team to school-record five consecutive bowl appearances.

2006 team averaged a school-record 327.4 yards per game on offense.

2003 finalist for the NCAA Division I-A Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year, Paul "Bear" Bryant Coach of the Year and Associated Press Coach of the Year awards.

2004 winner of the Bobby Dodd National Coach of the Year.

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