By Jack Hunter
Southern Virginia University has a familiar face leading its football program into the 2023 season.
SVU hired Joe DuPaix to be its next head football coach on Jan. 17. DuPaix was the team’s head coach for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He spent the last five seasons as an assistant coach at the U.S. Naval Academy.
“You’ve got an elite football coach with unquestionable character,” said Ken Niumatalolo, the former head coach at Navy.
All star coach on and off the field
“In today’s world, it’s hard because it’s all about winning,” Niumatalolo told the Rockbridge Report. “And sometimes players get treated as commodities, and they become kind of faceless and nameless. But with Joe DuPaix, that’s not the case. He’s going to coach you hard, but he’s going to love you hard.”
DuPaix was one of the masterminds behind Navy’s triple option offense that finished near the top of the country in rushing yards on a yearly basis. The option offense is built on the quarterback reading the defense and distributing the ball to the player the defense doesn’t account for.
“Joe’s a head football coach,” Niumatalolo said. “He needs to be a head football coach. I relied on him a lot, a lot of his suggestions, a lot of his opinions.”
DuPaix started his coaching career as the quarterbacks coach for the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1998. He served as offensive coordinator at California Polytechnic State University from 2001 to 2007. He went to Navy for the first time in 2008 and stayed through the 2010 season. He then joined the coaching staff at Brigham Young University for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. In 2016, SVU hired him as head coach. He went 4-16 in his two seasons before he went back to Navy.
“We were able to really set a strong foundation the first time I was here,” DuPaix said. “I’m excited to get back and continue to build upon that foundation.”
He said SVU has upped its game as a small college since his last stint at the university.
“The roster is definitely in a much better spot than it was when I first showed up seven years ago,” DuPaix said. “Campus overall is, man, they’re just killing it on campus, just with the branding and everything that we need to do to be a first-class program.”
Assistant Coach Patrick Hofmann said DuPaix focused on restructuring the football program during his first stint as head coach. SVU went 1-19 in the two seasons prior to DuPaix’s hiring.
Program plans to rebuild
“When we showed up on March first in 2016 for spring ball, we had 25 people on the roster for spring practice,” Hofmann said. “We put in a lot of work with him, even those first two years of just building a culture, a community where people want to be here. And I don’t know if that was necessarily the case before we showed up.”
In the past six years, SVU has built and opened a new football stadium and weight room. The school also joined the USA South Athletic Conference. The university was previously a football-only member in the New Jersey Athletic Conference and the Old Dominion Athletic Conference.
“I think there’s just an incredible opportunity for us as a football program to take another step forward,” DuPaix said. “With patience, we’ll get to where we need to be. But I couldn’t be more excited to be exactly where we are right now.”
SVU fired Ed Mulitalo in November following a 1-9 record in 2022. Mulitalo, a Super Bowl champion for the Baltimore Ravens in 2001, went 11-33 in five seasons.
DuPaix said he plans to include some triple option principles in the offense, but it’s too early to say how much.
“It comes back to who do we really have to pull the trigger at quarterback, who do we have in the skill positions,” he said. “Offensive line, we need to grind and get after people up front.”
Niumatalolo said DuPaix showed at Navy that he knows how to run more than just the triple option.
“Joe can do other things too,” Niumatalolo said. “He can run spread stuff, did a lot of stuff out of the [shot]gun. He’s a great football mind.”
DuPaix first learned the option offense from his father, Roger DuPaix, who is the winningest high school football coach in Utah state history. DuPaix played quarterback in his father’s system and won a state championship in 1990 at Skyline High School in Salt Lake City.
DuPaix said watching his dad work as a head coach inspired him to come back for a second stint at SVU.
“I’ve seen the positive things he’s left throughout players year after year after year, and to be able to, you know, kind of follow in that mold and be able to lead a program and hopefully develop young men into great, great men,” DuPaix said. “You know, that’s the goal, along with winning a bunch of football games.”
DuPaix said SVU’s values played a role in his decision to come back. He is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the same church that SVU aligns itself with. Over 90% of the student body are members of the Church, according to the university’s website.
“It’s just really cool to know that, you know, your job and your faith are in complete alignment,” DuPaix said. “I’ve always loved faith, family and football. And to have all three of those things just in perfect alignment is pretty special.”