The Florida Gators are set to hire Louisiana’s Billy Napier as their next head football coach, per a report from Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel. The move comes exactly a week after the school announced it had fired Dan Mullen in the midst of his fourth season.
The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman confirmed the news shortly after, stating Napier had been patiently waiting for the right spot in recent years. Florida and Napier are expected to have the deal done later on Sunday.
A former assistant under Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, Napier has led Louisiana to double digit victories in each of the past three seasons. The Georgia native has been in the mix for several SEC jobs in recent years such as Auburn, South Carolina and Mississippi State.
But the Gators became the first to pull the trigger, plucking Napier out of Louisiana to become the program’s 29th coach. The move caused many to question why LSU, which announced it would part ways with Ed Orgeron at the conclusion of 2021, didn’t work harder to secure an in-state candidate.
Prior to arriving in Lafayette, Napier spent one season as the offensive coordinator at Arizona State in 2017. He helped direct the Sun Devils to a 7-6 record and appearance in the Sun Bowl against NC State.
Since taking over Louisiana in 2018, he has compiled a 38-12 record. He won the Sun Belt Coach of the Year award in just his second season at the helm.
At 10-1 (7-0 in league play), the Ragin’ Cajuns have already clinched their spot in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game against Appalachian State. They rank 42nd in the country and fifth in the Sun Belt in total defense, a major area of emphasis for Florida in its coaching search.
After the Gators took Alabama to the wire in last year’s SEC title game, the Dan Mullen era took a sharp turn for the worse. Florida began the year at 3-1, with its lone loss coming by two points against the Crimson Tide. After being ranked inside the top 10, the Gators have gone 2-5, with the only victories coming against Vanderbilt and Samford.
The defense has struggled immensely, giving up an average of 39.8 points over its past five outings. Florida responded by firing defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as well as offensive line coach John Hevesy prior to the Samford game. They still gave up 52 points in that one, the most ever from an FCS school against an SEC opponent.
The Gators will turn their attention to in-state rival Florida State on Saturday as they hope to achieve bowl eligibility with a win. They will then prepare for the early signing period, set to begin on Dec. 15, with their new coach.