There were many reasons why Billy Napier was an attractive candidate for Florida. As Napier prepares to jump full-time into his Gators role Sunday, don’t overlook the reason why his start has been delayed.
He had one more game (Saturday’s Sun Belt championship) to coach in a good conference.
“I do think that the Sun Belt Conference has really made a move in my time …” Napier said. “And there’s no question that it affected my ability (to get the UF job) and the opinion of other people out there about our team, for sure.”
Napier isn’t the first Sun Belt coach to make the jump to a bigger program. Here’s a quick look at some of his predecessors and how they fared:
Sun Belt stop: Went 12-1 and beat Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns to win the 2019 Sun Belt championship in his only year at Appalachian State.
What happened next: He’s 11-11 in his two seasons at Missouri and is on track to sign a top-15 recruiting class. His 24-23 overtime win over Florida last month (plus some postgame trolling) led to Dan Mullen being fired the next day.
Sun Belt stop: Won three conference titles at Appalachian State, including a 2018 championship game win over Louisiana in Napier’s first season. Finished 47-16 in five seasons as head coach.
What happened next: Left his alma mater for Louisville, where he’s 18-18 in three years. He has rubbed some people wrong by considering other jobs, and this 6-6 season ended with a 52-21 loss to rival Kentucky.
Sun Belt stop: Went 35-16 in four seasons at Troy and had double-digit wins in each of the last three. Won the league in 2017.
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What happened next: He’s 17-17 in three seasons at West Virginia. This year’s 6-6 season included wins over ranked Iowa State and Virginia Tech teams but losses to Maryland and Texas Tech.
Sun Belt stop: Went 7-5 and finished as co-conference champion in 2013, his lone season at Arkansas State.
What happened next: Jumped from there to Boise State, where he finished ranked four times in seven seasons and won three Mountain West titles with a 69-19 final record. Went 6-6 this season in his first year at Auburn.
Sun Belt stop: Finished 9-3 and won the conference in his first and only season at Arkansas State (2012).
What happened next: Took Auburn to the 2013 BCS national championship in his first season but lost to Florida State. Had four more top-25 seasons at Auburn and went 68-35 before getting fired. Finished 8-4 in his first season this fall at UCF.
Sun Belt stop: Won the Sun Belt with a perfect conference record in 2011 in his only season as Arkansas State’s head coach. His 10-win season was the program’s first since 1986.
What happened next: Went 39-25 at Mississippi with trips to the Peach Bowl and Sugar Bowl plus back-to-back wins over Alabama. He resigned amidst an escort scandal and is 25-11 over his past three seasons at Liberty.
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