Billy Napier downplays social media buzz over size of staff in Florida football team photo
The unveiling of the Florida football team photo on social media this week got some attention.
Not for the players within the photo. But for all those in blue Gator polo shirts surrounding them, the sheer number of them drew Twitter reaction.
Those pictured represent a trend in college football, the growing number of support staff required to run a Power Five Division 1 program. According to UF's yearbook, there are 62 football support staff members, ranging from quality control assistants on position groups, to strength and conditioning assistants to recruiting strategists.
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Florida coach Billy Napier said those wearing blue polos in the team photo weren't all support staff.
"We try to make a concerted effort to involve everyone in the team photo, including all our student workers, all the people that contribute to some degree to our operation," Napier said, "I think that’s maybe gotten inflated a little bit out there.
"But I’m excited about the infrastructure that we have. That’s made up of a lot different components, obviously the players, but leadership in each area of the organization — full-time employees. We also have, I think, it might be 85 undergraduates that contribute to our team, as well, equipment room, video, training room, personnel, OCR and strategy."
Napier said the photo created some reaction from family and friends, including his brother, Kurt, a high school football coach at Murray County High in Chatsworth, Ga.
"My brother sent me a picture of his team photoshopped, like, three and four of the staff members on top of him," Napier said. "So, my brother sent me that so I got a laugh out of that.”
The limit of assistant coaches that FBS schools can hire is 10, but there are no limits to the number of support staff members schools can hire. Alabama, Clemson and Georgia are among schools who have beefed up their staffs with analysts and other staff members to build championship caliber programs.
During this offseason, for example, Alabama hired former Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as a defensive analyst.
"It truly takes hundreds of people to put a good product out there on game day," Napier said. "I think we want each person to take pride in their role, realize they can make an impact and they may well be the difference. I think the team photo is a reflection of that.”
When asked whether it gives him confidence going into the season with a staff size comparable to Alabama and Georgia, Napier said: "I was joking with the ops guy there, you guys just hide them all in the building on team photo day. Yeah, I’ve I felt a lot better about being prepared for openers. Heck, we were at the same place for four years and we got pretty good at it. This is a new place with a new staff and a new group of people, so I don't necessarily know (if) that's very answerable. I'll tell you after the game's over. We can agree to that.”