Florida football: Billy Napier addresses media as the next Gators football coach

Special to Gatorsports.com
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The Billy Napier era of Florida Gators football history officially began today.

Florida was formally introduce Napier, 42, as its 28th head coach in program history at a 4:30 p.m. news conference at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

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The coach and his family arrived at Gainesville Airport before noon today, greeted by a throng of UF officials.

Then a large crowd, similar to the size at Gator Walk before games, greeted Napier and his family at the Bull Gator statue on the corner of Gale Lemerand Drive and Stadium Road on campus.

Napier was hired by Florida last Sunday to fill the vacancy created by the firing of Dan Mullen, but he insisted on being able to coach Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns in their conference title game before leaving the team to move on to its bowl game without him. The Cajuns (12-1) won their first Sun Belt Conference championship game Saturday over Appalachian State 24-16. The Cajuns finished No. 17 in the final USA Today coaches poll Sunday.

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“Nothing’s more important to me than doing the job for the players on this team, and you’ve got to compliment the players for their ability to focus," Napier said. "Our team was well prepared. There’s no question. We executed our plan tonight.”

Napier finished 40-12 in four years — 33-5 during the past three seasons — with the Cajuns. He coached the Ragin' Cajuns to four straight Sun Belt West Division titles and lost the conference's first two championship games and had the 2020 title game canceled because of the pandemic.

The new Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier does the Gator Chomp to the fans as he and his family arrive at The Swamp, outside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Dec. 5, 2021.  [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Napier enters after agreeing to a seven-year, $51.8 million contract that makes him among the highest-paid coaches in the SEC, a source familiar with the deal's details told the Gainesville Sun Saturday night. Napier will make $7.1 million in his first season and will get a $100,000 raise annually before each of the remaining six years, the person said. Only Alabama's Nick Saban ($9.75 million), Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher ($9 million), new LSU coach Brian Kelly ($8.6 million) and Georgia's Kirby Smart ($7.13 million) are due to make more in the SEC next season. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin agreed to a deal “in the range of $7.5 million annually,” ESPN reported Saturday night.

2:05 p.m. | Napier coming up with staff

He’s only just touched down in Gainesville, but Gators head coach Billy Napier appears to already be putting his Florida coaching staff in place. 

Jabbar Juluke and Patrick Toney will join Napier at Florida, according to a repot by FootballScoop’s John Brice. The two assistant coaches, who worked under Napier at Louisiana Lafayette, will travel via private plane to Florida following the Ragin Cajuns’ conference championship celebration. Juluke will serve as an offensive assistant role after working as running backs coach and assistant head coach at Louisiana, while Toney, who has experience at Sam Houston State and Texas-San Antonio, will serve as either defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator, according to the report. 

Under Toney, Louisiana’s defense finished the season ranked No. 11 in scoring defense. Napier is expected to discuss his initial Florida coaching staff when he addresses the media at 4:30 p.m. 

— Graham Hall

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