Billy Napier will have time he needs to succeed for Gators, but SEC is no place for patience | Whitley
It’s been a good two days since Florida hired a new football coach, and Billy Napier has yet to win a game.
Such is the reputation the school and its fan base have developed. Spoiled, impatient, entitled. That has turned Florida into Hot Seat U.
It’s been musical chairs since Urban Meyer left town. Will Muschamp, Jim McElwain and now Dan Mullen have all come and gone in the past 11 years.
Taking the UF job is like marrying King Henry VIII. Though in fairness to Henry, none of his six wives were beheaded for losing to Georgia. That cut-throat atmosphere and job instability are supposedly the biggest drawbacks for Napier.
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He needn’t worry.
Napier's going to get all the time and money he needs, though that doesn't mean Florida will be an easy place to work.
If the Gators don’t win at least eight games next season, some joker will probably crank up a firebillynapier.com website where fellow yahoos can gather to vent.
Nobody needs to tell Napier the SEC is a What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately league. As Louisiana’s coach, he just had a front-row seat to the Ed Orgeron Follies.
Two years ago, Orgeron led LSU to a national championship. Now he’s out of a job.
Auburn did the same thing to Gene Chizik in 2012. Mark Richt had the best winning percentage in Georgia history when he got axed in 2015. SEC-bound Texas is on its third coach in seven years.
You want spoiled?
Go to YouTube and find Nick Saban’s rant last week about Alabama fans, and how they aren’t happy the Crimson Tide’s not winning every game by 38 points this year.
Florida fans aren’t any more demanding than the devotees at other football factories. Most of them just demand progress, which has been a scarce commodity the past decade. And the suits who run the show are less reactionary than the reputation warrants.
Jeremy Foley got the reputation as the Grim Reaper of athletic directors when he fired the baseball, men’s tennis and gymnastics coaches in 2002. That forever linked him with the phrase, “I’m a big believer in the saying that if something needs to be done eventually, it needs to be done immediately.”
But Foley watched patiently as Muschamp lost home games to Vanderbilt and Georgia Southern on the way to a 4-8 season in 2013. The axe didn’t fall until the next November.
Enter McElwain. He won SEC East titles his first two seasons, but the program was rotting underneath him. You can’t have a coach who alienates an entire athletic department, concocts death threats and is photographed (allegedly) in the buff with a shark.
Coach McFlake was gone after 34 games, which brought in Mullen, which brought in the psychodrama Gator fans have endured the past two months.
Scott Stricklin is a patient man. If anything, he was too patient with women’s basketball coach Cam Newbauer and all that went on there. And he’s been far more forgiving of men’s coach Mike White than the fire-breathers liked.
Stricklin was not itching to get rid of Mullen. It was interesting when he said Mullen’s losing record didn’t do him in. It was things like leadership, accountability, dependability and judgment.
When you believe the culture is unraveling and/or a coach is (allegedly) photographed in a compromising position with a fish, what are you supposed to do?
Keep them around?
The mistake was hiring them in the first place, though the M&M&M coaches all looked like promising employees at the time. So does Napier, who has just about everything you’d want in a job applicant except Power 5 head-coaching experience.
One thing a resume doesn’t really show is how he’ll handle adversity. You need a thick skin at Florida, and the past couple of coaches weren’t exactly made of horsehide. But for all the pressure that comes with any big-time job, there is the upside.
The new coach is getting a name-brand school, a massive salary, top-flight facilities, vast financial resources, a bountiful recruiting ground, administrative backing and a devoted — very devoted — fan base.
If Napier can’t succeed with all that, he should be on the hot seat. Just like he'd be anywhere else.
— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow him on Twitter: @DavidEWhitley