Navy was best option for DuPaix, Part One

It's not everyday that a football coach turns down a head coaching job for an assistant one, but that's most likely what Joe DuPaix did when he accepted the offer to come to Navy. Considered by many reputable sources as the likely candidate to take the vacant Southern Utah job, DuPaix instead decided to bring his vast knowledge and family pedigree of option football to Annapolis.

The name ‘DuPaix' is synonymous with two things in the state of Utah: option football and winning.

 

For the past thirty one years, Joe's father, Roger DuPaix has coached the Sykline High School Eagles and he is currently the winningest football coach in Utah history.  His career record in high school football games is 273-94.  And according to his son, Joe, the senior DuPaix has been running the option since the mid 80's.

 

"I grew up basically running the option.  [My dad] started running the option back in 1984-85 so when I grew up it was all option football.  We won a state championship my senior year at Skyline – I was the quarterback."

 

So where did the elder Dupaix pick-up option football?

 

"I first learned it from Air Force with Coach [Fisher] DeBerry," said Roger DuPaix.  "I did also meet with Coach [Paul] Johnson when he was with Hawaii."

 

The younger DuPaix's exposure to option football continued after he graduated high school.

 

After a brief stint at Snow College, where he was an Honorable Mention Junior College All-American, DuPaix transferred to Southern Utah University.  In his junior year with the Eagles, DuPaix set an NCAA 1-AA individual rushing record for yards (1,246) by a quarterback.

 

"[At Southern Utah] we ran exactly what we are doing here [at Navy] – the terminology, all the different numbering systems that are out there.  It was all the same stuff.  I had a great experience there," said DuPaix.

 

Making the transition from playing to coaching was something that came naturally to DuPaix.

 

"[Coaching] was something I always wanted to do since I played for my dad."

 

Once his playing days were over, DuPaix started his coaching career as an assistant at Riverton High School in Salt Lake City and then as the quarterbacks and receivers coach at the University of Missouri-Rolla.  Next it was onto 1-AA Cal Poly of the Great West Conference where DuPaix would remain for seven years – the last four of which he served as the Mustangs' offensive coordinator.  With DuPaix orchestrating the option offense, Cal Poly led all 1-AA in total offense in 2007, averaging 487 yards per game.  Overall during his four-year tenure in charge of the offense, Cal Poly won 32 games and lost only 14. 

 

Meanwhile during that same span, on the other end of the Great West Conference, DuPaix's alma mater, Southern Utah, was struggling to a 10-33 record under their head coach Wes Meier.  As a result, on November 19, 2007, Meier learned that his contract would not be renewed for the 2008 season.

 

DuPaix's name quickly surfaced as a leading candidate for the Southern Utah position and he interviewed for the job in early December – about the same time that Navy's former head coach, Paul Johnson, was interviewing at Duke, SMU and Georgia Tech.

 

"I wasn't watching [the Navy situation] super close because I was actually involved with the head football coaching position at Southern Utah," said DuPaix.  "It was a situation where I'd be able to go back to my alma mater.  I'd be able to go live in Utah – three hours from where my wife, Monica, and I grew up.  There were a lot of great things about [the job]." 

 

After DuPaix's initial interview, Paul Johnson took the job at Georgia Tech, and Navy quickly named his long-time assistant Ken Niumatalolo as his replacement.

 

"I was going back for a second interview to meet the president [of Southern Utah University] on a Tuesday.  On the Sunday prior, Coach Niumatalolo called me and told me he wanted to talk to me in more depth about the Navy position.  He told me he wanted me to coach the slot backs, and certainly I was very interested.  I told him that I'd like to talk to him more about it on Tuesday night [after the second interview with Southern Utah]."

 

"Monica and I are people of great faith and we spent a lot of time on Monday and Tuesday praying about what was the right decision for our family, not just the football part of it because we've got five kids.  We had to make sure we moved to the right place," continued DuPaix.

 

"When it was all said and done, we both felt very strongly that Navy was the place for us to come.  I called [Southern Utah] and withdrew my name as the athletic director was walking into the president's house to make that decision [on a new head coach]."

 

At least one person in the DuPaix family was expecting Joe to take a different path.

 

"I was surprised [by his decision] because I thought he would be offered the SUU job," said Roger DuPaix.  "[But] I think it was a very good decision that Joe and Monica made.  Joe is enthusiastic and a leader with a very positive attitude.  Navy is a perfect fit."

 

Part of the reason both Joe and Roger DuPaix were comfortable with the choice was that they both had an opportunity to meet Coach Niumatalolo in the spring of 2007.

 

"The [Navy] coaches were great.  They gave us first-class treatment," said Roger DuPaix.

 

"That was the first time I came out [to Annapolis].  That was the first time [Coach Niamatalolo and I] met.  I just came here last year to learn more.  It didn't make sense for me to go to USC when we weren't going to run that type of offense.  I came here to observe and learn and see how they manipulated drills…look for different ideas," said Joe DuPaix.

 

Although it was the first time DuPaix and Niumatalolo met, there was already a pretty strong connection established through Cal Poly's current head football coach, Rich Ellerson.  Prior to coaching the Mustangs, Ellerson had served as the defensive coordinator at Hawaii from 1988-1992.  Also on the Rainbows staff during his tenure was Paul Johnson (offensive coordinator) and Niumatalolo (graduate assistant).

 

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In Part II of the interview with Navy's new slot back coach, Joe DuPaix discusses the differences between Cal Poly's offense and the Mids; the reputation of Navy football on the West Coast; the challenges of recruiting; and whether or not he thinks he can make the Navy offense even better.  Part II will be for premium members only.  To sign up, click here.

 

REMINDER: There are two fundraisers currently taking place to honor the life and sacrifices of two Naval Academy graduates killed in the line of duty.  The first is the GoMids.com tailgate party, raising funds for Doug Zembiec's daughter Fallyn; and the second is a scholarship fund established for the late Navy Seal, Erik Kristensen.  


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