Gators Introduce Napier as Their Next Head Football Coach

Just before noon on Sunday, the next head coach of Florida Gator football touched down in Gainesville. Billy Napier was met with an audience, including the Gator marching band, the Pride of the Sunshine.

Another crowd, featuring a few dozen fans, awaited him at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Shakers were provided for those who wished to stand along the Florida Gators’ version of the red carpet. People of all ages were dressed in orange and blue. Some waited over an hour before Napier’s scheduled arrival time.

Waiting crowd
Gator fans wait for the arrival of Billy Napier (credit: Harrison Smajovits)

“Here he comes,” a woman screamed as line of cars led by a white van drove southbound on Gale Lemerand Drive. The van turned so the passenger side faced the entrance to the stadium.

The crowd begins to chant, “Bi-lly, Bi-lly, Bi-lly, Bi-lly.”

The door opens, and Napier steps out to the applause of the crowd. His first course of action, do a Gator chomp. Everyone joins in.

Napier welcomed
Florida head coach Billy Napier welcomes the fans with a Gator chomp (credit: Harrison Smajovits)

His family exits the van to join him in their walk to the Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. The crowd shouts the chant, “It’s great to be a Florida Gator.”

As he walks, Napier stops to shake hands and take selfies. In what would normally be a 10-second walk to the door without an audience almost took 120. He tried to get as many greetings in as he could.

Napier’s Introductory Press Conference

Just after 4:30 p.m., Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin introduced Napier to the media. Napier spoke of his excitement to be the next head coach of the Gators.

Now, the former Louisiana head coach had turned down offers from SEC schools previously, so of course the question of why he chose Florida arose. Napier said part of the reason was he felt hadn’t finished the job he started with the Ragin’ Cajuns before this year. At the same time, the right call came his way.

“So, it was the right place at the right time, with the right people, [the] right leadership,” Napier said.

Another reason Napier chose Florida was because of the school’s willingness to invest–which he said is one of the most important factors to him.

The Game Plan Going Forward

Napier said there would be a year-round development plan with eight specific phases for each part of the year.

The quick version given at the press conference goes as follows:

  1. Foundation
  2. Identity
  3. Spring practice
  4. Discretionary period
  5. Summer regiment
  6. Training camp
  7. In-season
  8. Postseason

Each phase has its own goals and objectives. There will be a sense of urgency for each phase. Along with each phase, the recruiting calendar is split into six stages. Napier didn’t specify the recruiting stages. However, he did elaborate on the upcoming early signing day. He emphasized patience during this early stage of recruiting.

Napier admitted that there’s a chance not many sign with the Gators during this period. One reason is because of how late they’re starting.  “It’s like getting in the game with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.”

Another reason he added was a good part of recruiting is relationship building and both sides understanding what’s ahead. The timing wouldn’t allow for that.

“I think it’s an injustice to them and an injustice to us to all of a sudden just hurry up and elope here right at the last second,” he said.

The goal for now is to build the right staff and position the Gators for post-signing day and see which players are left, along with players in the transfer portal.

When asked about the game plan about next season, specifically for games, Napier said he hasn’t gotten that far yet. He wants to focus on building his staff for now and going step by step until he gets to the on-field action.

The Rest of the Season

Along with introducing the next head coach, an announcement was made that Florida will play in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa against UCF in the Gasparilla Bowl. Interim head coach Greg Knox will still be at the helm for the Gators for final game of the 2021 season on December 23.

 

About Harrison Smajovits

Harrison is a sports coordinator at ESPN 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF. He served as a beat writer for Florida Gators football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He also contributes to WRUF's Gainesville Sports Center segments and makes appearances on the Clash on Harp on Sports. Harrison has been a content writer for WRUF since January 2019 as well.

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