ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)Navy promoted defensive coordinator Brian Newberry to head coach on Monday, replacing Ken Niumatalolo, the winningest coach in school history who was fired a week ago.

Newberry, 51, has been leading the Midshipmen defense since 2019. His college coaching career dates back 2000, but this will be his first head coaching job.

”It is a great honor and privilege to lead this program,” Newberry said in a statement. ”It is a great responsibility that I fully accept and embrace. I could not be more excited and optimistic about the future of Navy football. The Naval Academy is a special place and we have great young men in our program.”

Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said in a statement that Newberry is ”respected and was highly endorsed by many.”

”Often there comes a time in the careers of highly accomplished coaches in our profession when documented credibility aligns with logical leadership opportunity and Coach Newberry’s time is now,” Gladchuk said.

Navy moved on from Niumatalolo after going 11-23 over the past three seasons, but the defense didn’t draw much of the blame for that. Gladchuk has received some criticism for firing Niumatalolo after 16 seasons with the school and 109 victories, but Gladcuk also places a premium on beating fellow military academies Air Force and Army – which Navy has done only four times in the past 14 matchups.

Navy lost to Army in overtime on Dec. 10 to finish its season with a 4-8 record.

Newberry, who played for Baylor, led a defense that finished sixth in the nation in run defense this season. He previously was defensive coordinator at Kennesaw State, Northern Michigan, the University of the South and Washington & Lee.

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