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Las Vegas • The assumed leading candidate to replace Bronco Mendenhall as BYU's head football coach is no longer a candidate.
Navy athletic director Chet Gladchuk said Wednesday night that Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo, who visited BYU on Monday, has elected to remain at the Naval Academy.
Niumatalolo's agent, Evan Beard, confirmed to The Tribune on Wednesday night that BYU offered the job to Niumatalolo, one of only three major college football head coaches who is an active member of the faith that owns and operates BYU, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mendenhall and Utah coach Kyle Whittingham are the other two.
BYU's primary candidate now becomes Oregon State defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake, a former BYU fullback who spent 10 years at Utah before joining coach Gary Andersen's staff at Oregon State last December.
BYU president Kevin Worthen and athletic director Tom Holmoe have interviewed Sitake in person on at least one occasion this week, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Niumatalolo was named a finalist on Wednesday for national coach of the year along with Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, Florida's Jim McElwain, Stanford's David Shaw and Clemson's Dabo Swinney.
His son, Va'a, is a sophomore on BYU's football team and preparing to face Utah in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MST, ABC).
"I've had some other [coaching] opportunities [but] wasn't interested much in them," Niumatalolo said Saturday after Navy beat Army 21-17. "[BYU] is different because it is who I am. It is my faith. That's the only reason [he was interested]."
Niumatalolo traveled to Utah on Sunday night with his wife, Barbara, and met with BYU and LDS Church officials the following day in Provo and in Salt Lake City.
Mendenhall announced last week he was leaving for Virginia, but will coach in Saturday's bowl game seeking his 100th win as BYU's coach.