Which open jobs make most sense for Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football coach Billy Napier
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns football coach Billy Napier is a man in demand.
After four winning seasons at UL since he replaced the fired Mark Hudspeth – four bowl invites, four Sun Belt Conference West Division titles – it could be Napier’s time to take on another challenge.
He’s turned down jobs before, including Mississippi State in 2019, when he also ruled out Missouri. Napier took himself out of the running at South Carolina and Auburn after last season too.
There are only so many SEC jobs.
But with No. 23 UL (10-1, 7-0 Sun Belt) coming off a 42-14 win at Liberty preparing to close its regular season Saturday (3 p.m., ESPNU) against UL Monroe (4-7, 2-5) before playing Appalachian State in the Dec. 4 Sun Belt championship game at Cajun Field, there may not be much more time before he says yes to someone.
Numerous jobs across the country are open, including USC, Washington and Washington State.
Here are four that might make sense for Napier:
Why it makes sense: When the Gators fired Dan Mullen one day after Saturday’s loss to Missouri, Napier’s name immediately appeared on potential candidate lists. His offensive mind and consistent history of winning is just what’s needed in Gainesville. If a high-profile SEC job is what Napier really wants, it seems like a super fit. He would have virtually unlimited resources and could build a superpower like mentor Nick Saban did at LSU and Alabama.
Why it doesn’t: It’s a big jump from the Sun Belt to the SEC elite. Is Napier, 42, really ready? Is Florida really where he wants to be, or is LSU a better fit if that offer ever materializes? From a recruiting perspective, Napier is much more established in Louisiana than Florida. But if the Gators make a play, don’t be shocked if this is the one where Napier bites.
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Why it makes sense: This could be the perfect landing spot for a high-profile Group of Five coach not tapped for his preferred Power 5 destination. If a good guy capable of building a winner in a few seasons is what the Hokies were seeking when they fired Justin Fuente, Napier is the answer. The Tennessee native has North Georgia roots (he played there in high school) and South Carolina college history – quarterback at Furman – making him a good regional match. A solid program in an established conference like the ACC with an administration committed to winning could be just what he wants, too, before landing his dream SEC job.
Why it doesn’t: Virginia Tech obviously isn’t in the SEC. A Florida or LSU offer certainly would trump one from the Hokies. Fuente failed after moving from Memphis to Blacksburg, and Napier would have guaranteed stability at UL for several more seasons – barring a Hudspeth-like fiasco – without having to make an interim move until a better offer comes along. Then again, the Cajuns likely won’t be nearly as strong next as this season.
Why it makes sense: Napier values stability. The last guy at TCU, Gary Patterson, lasted two-plus decades before the two sides parted ways earlier this season. Napier’s UL staff already recruits Texas hard, and lots of his current and former assistants have strong Texas ties; it could be an almost seamless transition. Dallas-Fort Worth is a big market to draw fan support from, and, oh, it’s a Power 5 job.
Why it doesn’t: Napier reportedly already interviewed at TCU but may already be out of the mix, especially with other, more appealing, jobs already open – and others, perhaps Arizona State, where he was offensive coordinator in 2017 before coming to UL, likely to soon come open. And what’s TCU’s future anyway? The Big 12 is on shaky ground after losing Oklahoma and Texas to the SEC, so it would be a move that comes with a degree of uncertainty.
Why it makes sense: Indications are Napier really wants the job, a good start. His experience as a Saban assistant at Alabama, where he was receivers coach, and as offensive coordinator under Dabo Swinney at Clemson, where he was fired but learned valuable lessons, could go far toward SEC success. Napier is uber-organized and his players disciplined, something LSU needs after Ed Orgeron. He’s a strong recruiter, requisite in Baton Rouge. He knows Louisiana recruits already, which could go far with the NCAA’s December signing period fast approaching.
Why it doesn’t: LSU athletic director Scott Woodward is looking for, and most LSU fans want, a big-name hire. A Sun Belt coach doesn’t exactly fit match, even if his Cajuns are nationally-ranked. It’s a big jump, especially with no prior Power 5 head coaching experience. It could be a tough pitch to the LSU masses, though not nearly as tough as selling a hire from a neighboring school some in Baton Rouge look down at like a redheaded stepchild. Napier also is his own play-caller. Would that work as well at LSU as at UL? It could take several much-bigger names saying no before Napier is offered. But he may not take a job a non-SEC job until knowing for sure he’s out of this one.