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It has to be such a challenge for new Florida head coach Billy Napier to juggle two college football jobs at the same time, but it sounds like he has a plan. The soon-to-be former Louisiana coach is preparing his team for a conference championship game on Saturday, while also getting things off the ground in Gainesville, trying to find the balance needed to handle both.
Napier made it clear on Monday that his current goal is to win a championship at Louisiana, focusing most of his attention on finishing what he started with his current players. You have to give him credit for sticking it out with his current team, as most coaches would bolt for the next job as soon as they signed a contract. Napier made it clear that there was never a doubt he would coach his team on Saturday before moving forward with the Gators.
“There was never a doubt we were going to coach in the (title) game, and certainly even now we tried to get the announcement out of the way (Sunday),” Napier said on Monday during the SunBelt media availability. “We’ll have a total focus this week on the conference championship game. When we’re done here Saturday, we’ll forward and start working on the challenges that are ahead of us.”
During his negotiations with Florida AD Scott Stricklin, Napier emphasized that he would not leave his current team before their biggest moment. So the new Gators coach will spend time at night making the necessary calls to get things in order at his new home when he’s not working on a game plan at his old one. This will likely entail recruiting calls, trying to set up a staff and also working on building a relationship with current Gators. It won’t be easy, but that is why he’ll send an advance team to Gainesville to get things rolling.
“We’ve allocated some time early in the morning and late at night to work on some of the future challenges that we have, but my schedule won’t change this week. We owe that to the players, and certainly that’s the approach that we’ll take.”
If there is one thing that Napier has proven during this process, it’s that he’s loyal to the people at Louisiana who helped him get to this point. So there was no way he would leave them now.
“It’s part of the challenge,” Napier said. “But what we’ve done here is we’ve tried to make a decision that we’re going to focus on the task at hand. From a loyalty standpoint, anything less than that would be … that’s not who we are and not what we’re about.
At times, it felt like the Florida football program was having a hard time building relationships within the program, not just the starters, but all the way down to the walk-ons. But Napier had an interesting way of saying that a team isn’t just about the stars. It’s about players who will fight for each other, day in and day out, like those at Louisiana.
“Assembling a staff and certainly evaluating in recruiting and building a roster that not only has talent but also is made of the right intangibles. It’s one thing to collect talent. I think it’s another thing to build a team.”
So, what happens now for Napier is key, as the school will introduce him on Sunday after Louisiana plays in the Sun Belt Championship game on Saturday afternoon. He’ll have to watch film of current players, find out what he needs in the transfer portal, and also get ready for the early signing period on December 15. But he still made it clear that his focus will not change this week. He will just be a lot busier than usual, preparing for both challenges.
“Given the dynamic with the transfer portal, the combination of that to go along with December signing, there’s so many variables that affect this time of year,” Napier said. “We (are) going to be focused on doing the best job we could do for this staff and the players here. Going to have to compartmentalize a little bit, but my schedule and the amount of time I’m going to spend on our team this week will not change.”
Either way, the Gators are getting a determined coach who could soon be wearing an extra ring on his finger in Gainesville. In the grand scheme of things, not having Napier on campus in Florida this weekend isn’t that big of a deal, especially if he goes out and puts on a show Saturday. A great performance with Louisiana would just give Gator fans another reason to be excited about this hire.