Billy Napier has not coached a game yet for the Florida Gators, and he won’t for about nine months. But he’s already 1-0 in his career at Florida.
No, press conferences do not have any correlation with results on the field. No, explanations of plans do not guarantee wins. Yes, Billy Napier had plenty of time to prepare what he was going to say, both in terms of his statements and in terms of his responses to reporters’ questions. But through one full day on the job, he’s done more to generate excitement than many would have predicted with a grand slam home run of an introductory press conference.
He stood there at the podium and talked about how humbled and honored he was. About how the University of Florida is one of the special places in college football. About how thankful his entire family was to be a part of it. And he thanked Scott Stricklin and Florida president Kent Fuchs three separate times in the first minute of his opening statement.
He talked about the importance of family. About how his wife Ali was the real MVP. About how important it was for him to have his mother standing there, watching him officially accept the head coaching job at the University of Florida. And he was brought very close to the point of tears when he talked about his relationship with his father.
He talked about needing an entire army to be successful. About how that army would be comprised of everyone within his program, from players to coaches and even ball boys. About how that army extended to the local community, including Gainesville business owners and fans. And he made a point to mention how every piece of that army needed to be onboard.
He talked about building the best program in the SEC. About how college football is a “talent acquisition business.” About how it all started in the trenches, and how he’s going to call plays himself to free up an extra staff spot, which he’s going to utilize with a second offensive line coach. About how disciplined and hardworking his football team was going to be, and that if players didn’t like how that sounded, they could go elsewhere. And about how his relationships with his players begin with them as people first, players second.
And then he stood there and fielded question after question from reporters and writers, all the while striking that same balance between confidence and humility that he opened the presser with. It wasn’t so much that he looked bored by the lack of challenge the questions presented him, but he looked more than ready for the moment. As if taking questions at his introductory press conference was as easy as a play-call on third and inches.
Most noteworthy of all, though, was the plan for a new infrastructure that he laid out.
Nick Saban first popularized the role of “analyst” at Alabama, which is basically an assistant coaching position that sees the analyst provide input and, well, analysis on a certain unit or position group- but is not a hands on coach the way position coaches or coordinators are. Alabama “only” has about a dozen analysts on staff, and the reason for the word only is because Billy Napier plans to quadruple that number at Florida.
Alongside Napier’s $51.8M salary over the next seven years comes an additional $7.5M to allot to ten assistant coaches (among the ones we know: running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, safeties coach Patrick Toney, and strength coach Mark Hocke, who are all following him from Louisiana), and still $5M more per year is being allocated for his support staff. That support staff will include analysts, behind-the-scenes recruiting assistants, and other miscellaneous assistants to help the program run more efficiently.
And with that $5M per year, Napier plans to have roughly between 40-50 analysts on staff at Florida. Yes. Between 40 and 50.
Credit Scott Stricklin for this hire, too. Stricklin came under a lot of heat for the way he allowed women’s basketball coach Cam Newbauer to abuse his players- and he still does absolutely need to answer for that- but Stricklin was willing to open up the checkbook in order to build a national powerhouse of a football program. Which I would venture to guess is what most fans care about most.
And it’s obvious that Stricklin was quietly doing his due diligence on Napier behind the scenes for months now, even before Florida’s football program began the nosedive that killed Dan Mullen’s career in Gainesville. He didn’t know if and when he would be forced to make a move, but unbeknownst to most, he was ready to whenever he had to. That’s called being proactive.
Speaking of which, that’s probably the one word I would use to describe how I think Billy Napier will operate in Gainesville. Proactive. There’s a plan in place to build a monster of a football program, and though none of us have a crystal ball, we do know what happened when he put that plan into action at Louisiana.
The only difference is that now, Billy Napier is doing that planning of infrastructure at one of the most powerful name brand programs in college football. There are more resources at his disposal now, more weapons on the recruiting trail, more money to build that empire with. And yes, there are more expectations now, too- and no combination of words at a press conference can match those expectations if the wins on the field don’t follow.
But at the very least, we know for a fact that Billy Napier has generated excitement at Florida with promises to check all the boxes that his predecessor Dan Mullen could not. And if anything he did at Louisiana is any indication, there’s reason to believe that he can turn those promises into results that back them up.
And so before he’s ever coached a game, Billy Napier stands 1-0 at Florida. Because at a school with such high expectations, he’s already garnered one of the biggest wins he could. He’s won the fanbase.