Billy Napier will be formally introduced as the new head coach of the Florida Gators on Sunday, December 5. But first, he has a game to coach.
Napier's current team, the No. 20 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns (11-1), will face the defending conference champion Appalachian State Mountaineers (10-2) in the Sun Belt Championship game this Saturday at 3:30 P.M. ET.
Napier expressed in a statement released when he took the Florida job, as well as in his weekly press conference, that it was always his full intention to coach in the league title game despite his candidacy for a gig with a bigger program.
"There was never a doubt we were going to coach in the game and certainly even now we tried to get the [Florida] announcement out of the way yesterday. We’ll have a total focus this week on the conference championship game," Napier said on Monday. "When we’re done here Saturday we’ll forward and start working on the challenges that are ahead of us."
The challenges ahead for Napier, at Florida, include putting together a coaching and recruiting staff and hitting the trail to build upon an underwhelming 2022 class of high school commits. Napier has under two and a half weeks to pull both of these feats off, as the early signing period begins on December 15.
"I think the recruiting dynamic is just part of, it's becoming part of college football this time of year. It's certainly affected things in a lot of different ways, right?" Napier asked. "I think this year in particular 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."
Given the nature of the time crunch, Napier has set aside some time in the early morning and late evening to focus on his new responsibilities with the Gators. He isn't letting those duties distract him from this week's task at hand with Louisiana, though.
Keep in mind, Napier's Louisiana teams have clinched a spot in every Sun Belt championship game in the contest's four-year history. However, his Ragin' Cajuns have yet to bring home the trophy, going 0-2 in the game while the 2020 championship was canceled amid the COVID-19 pandemic. It's a goal of his and his team's to lift the trophy.
"We’ve allocated some time early in the morning and late at night to work on some of the future challenges that we have [at Florida], but my schedule won’t change this week. I think we owe that to the players, and certainly that’s the approach that we’ll take.
"My conversations with administration at Florida, that was clear that this week, in particular, we were going to be focused on doing the best job we could do for this staff and the players here ... heck, anybody that's been around us here knows that that's the way it should be and that's the way we want it to be."
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