University of Louisiana-Lafayette head football coach Billy Napier appears to be the frontrunner for the recently vacated Florida Gala, and it wouldn’t be the first time the Gators have targeted a coach on the rise if the program were to offer the 42-year-old Napier position.
While there is certainly some anxiety when it comes to handing the keys to him, here are five reasons why Napier is the next head coach for the Florida Gators.
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Billy Napier is an avid recruiter
In just four seasons with the Ragin’ Cajuns, Napier quickly developed a reputation as someone who calls the recruiting path their second home. He’s built the Sun Belt Conference’s largest recruitment team, and signed the conference’s best recruiting category for each of the last three sessions for all 247 sports.
Napier also has important connections to a region of the country that is full of talent and located in the Florida radius: North Georgia. With his father as his head coach, Napier starred as a high school quarterback at Murray County High School in Chatsworth, Ga. , a city just 45 miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee, before he took a four-year scholarship to Furman University. It is safe to say that Napier is knowledgeable about the area and has developed a reputation as someone who loves to hunt talent in the area.
Billy Napier’s Success on the Field
And he doesn’t just land players with promises – Napier wins with them, too.
His 38-12 Louisiana-Lafayette record might not sound impressive alone, but that number includes a 7-7 mark in 2018, Napier’s first season at the helm, meaning his teams have lost five games combined over the past three seasons. The Ragin’ Cajuns also dominated team play, going 26-5 against opponent Sun Belt while taking first place in the league standings in all four seasons.
Pedigree of Billy Napier in training
He’s not the first to hone his craft among household names, but Napier’s two decades of college-level training have spent working alongside an impressive group.
Napier got his start at Clemson in 2003 as a graduate assistant. Future Tigers coach Dabo Sweeney was the team’s reception coach at the time. Napier spent one season as a midfield coach at South Carolina before returning to Clemson in 2006, where he worked until the end of the 2010 season.
He would join Alabama in 2011 as an analyst working under coach Nick Saban on a team that also included future UF coach Jim McElwain as offensive coordinator. When McElwain took over the Colorado State job after the 2011 season, he hired Napier in 2012 as an assistant coach for the CSU/Quarterback coach.
Napier would serve under another championship-winning coach at Jimbo Fisher in 2013 when he became the Florida State coach. He returned to Tuscaloosa later that year, where he worked as a wide reception coach until 2016. Prior to accepting a head coach job at ULL in 2018, Napier worked in Arizona as an offensive coordinator.
Billy Napier is waiting for the right opportunity
Napier may have held double-digit coaching positions in the past 17 years, but he appears to have reached a point in his coaching career where he looks forward to an excellent opportunity. Instead of trying to build an average Power-Five in a competitor, Napier waits for a call from a program that isn’t short on resources – facilities, staffing budget, desired location, etc.
There is an expression regarding coaching searches that a coach isn’t “offered” until the program knows they will take it, but Napier made it clear to several P5 programs – Arkansas, Ole Miss and South Carolina are among the list of those rumored to have been reprimanded since 2019 – That he won’t leave Lafayette unless a laundry list of conditions is met, and Florida’s position as the Southeastern Conference’s most successful athletic division should ease any concerns he has.
Billy Napier has a reasonable price
After paying buyouts to three coaches in a row, Gators may have to think about finances – given recent track record, it might not be wise to offer a lucrative deal for a coach whose success has yet to translate to the pinnacle of college football.
With Mel Tucker and James Franklin receiving new 10-year guarantees that will pay them well in Michigan and Pennsylvania, respectively, one would think the Gators should make a similar investment, especially when you consider that they all share an agent in Jimmy Sexton.
But Napier just received a new contract that doubled his salary to $2 million — well below the SEC average. The renegotiated contract also requires Napier – or the program that employed him – to repay $3 million if he is to leave Lafayette before December 31, 2021.