Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns coach Billy Napier mentioned as candidate for South Carolina job

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

UL coach Billy Napier declined to comment Monday on specifics of multiple national reports naming him as a potential replacement after South Carolina fired coach Will Muschamp on Sunday.

Napier, who has the Ragin’ Cajuns (7-1, 5-1 Sun Belt) ranked No. 25 after Saturday’s 38-10 win over South Alabama, was first on a Yahoo.com list of 12 candidates the Gamecocks “could be targeting.”

FootballScoop, a coaching industry website, had Napier among the five “most prominent names already mentioned multiple times” even before Muschamp was let go. Also on FootballScoop’s list: Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell, Liberty’s Hugh Freeze, Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and Oklahoma assistant Shane Beamer.

“You know I’m not gonna comment on a specific job, especially at this point in time,” Napier said. “But I do think all of these things are a positive, because we’re relevant. We’re significant. We’ve been in contention. We’ve found a way to build a program, win games and do it a certain way.

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“I think it’s a reflection more of a lot of people. You know, we’ve got hundreds of people that take tremendous pride in their role and they contribute to our team, and have done that for the last two-and-a-half years. So, it’s humbling. But I think big-picture wise it’s a compliment to our staff, our players, and all of the people … from the top of the list to the bottom of the list that contribute to our team having success.

“So I hope we continue having this problem,” Napier added Monday afternoon. “That means we’re doing something right, and often times when individuals get recognized it’s a result of the team having success. It’s no different for our players than for our coaches.”

Napier also addressed the matter with KPEL 1420 AM’s Scott Prather during his regular radio appearance early Monday morning, saying “... we’ve got so many people that work hard in our organization and on our team, all the way down to the people that clean our building and the walk-ons on our team that never play.”

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, a highly respected national college football writer, called Freeze – a former head coach at Ole Miss – “the leader in the clubhouse.” Dodd also listed Napier along with Sarkisian, Chadwell, Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott and Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell.

“Napier has shown amazing loyalty in his third year in Lafayette. … This is his time, but will South Carolina be his place?” Dodd wrote.

Napier and Sarkisian also were mentioned by the website SaturdayDownSouth as “potential options … if Freeze doesn’t work out.”

UL coach Billy Napier, shown here during Saturday's win over South Alabama, is being mentioned as a candidate for the South Carolina coaching job.

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The reports come as UL prepares to play Central Arkansas on Saturday (1 p.m., ESPN+) at Cajun Field in its final non-conference game of the 2020 regular season.

Napier suggested Monday that he has not yet brought them up with his team, saying during his radio interview he’ll “address it if I think it’s an issue, but, you know, it’s not an issue right now.”

Asked by The Daily Advertiser is he or his agent has been contacted about the job by anyone from South Carolina or its search firm, Napier said “not that I’m aware of.”

“But … I’m not gonna comment on specific jobs,” he said. “I think this is part of the business, right? But this will be the last time I comment on it now. I said what I want to say about it.

“Our focus is on our team. I feel strongly about staying focused on the task at hand and doing the best that we can do for this group of players and this staff, and that’s the exactly the approach we’ll take for the duration.”

An ESPN report Sunday night mentioned Freeze, Napier and Chadwell as coaches who “are expected to be among the top targets to replace Muschamp, along with” Beamer and Elliott.

“(Napier) may not be the sexiest candidate, but he’s the most realistic,” wrote Yahoo’s Pete Thamel, another well-regarded national college football reporter.

“South Carolina officials are eating more than $13 million to fire Muschamp, not to mention the cost of his staff. … South Carolina officials may want a sexier name, but Napier may be the best fit.

“He’s been picky about jobs, turning down the shot to interview at multiple Power Five schools last year,” Thamel added. “This one may land different.”

Napier had opportunities to land multiple SEC jobs late last season, chiefly Mississippi State, but opted instead to stay at UL and coach a Cajuns team now headed to its third straight Sun Belt championship game. He also chose to not pursue potential opportunities at Ole Miss and Missouri.

The Cajuns extended his contract around the same time. It now runs through the end of 2025, with annual income of at least $880,000 before incentive bonuses this year rising to $950,000 by the end of the deal. He also has a $100,000 annual retention bonus.

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Photos:UL vs. South Alabama

Born in Tennessee and raised in Georgia as the son of a longtime high school coach there, Napier, 41, has more than a decade’s worth of ties to South Carolina.

He played quarterback in the state at Furman, was a graduate assistant at Clemson in from 2003-04, was QB coach at South Carolina State in 2005, returned to Clemson as an assistant in 2006 and was promoted to offensive coordinator before being fired by Dabo Swinney in 2010.

Napier was an offensive analyst at Alabama in 2011, quarterbacks coach at Colorado State in 2012, receivers coach at Alabama under Nick Saban from 2013-16 and offensive coordinator at Arizona State in 2017 before taking his first head coaching job at UL.

Muschamp, who was making $4.37 million this year according to a USA TODAY database of salaries, was in his fifth season at South Carolina. He went 28-30, including 2-5 this year. Former Colorado State coach and ex-Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is the Gamecocks’ interim head coach.

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