cajunscoach08.121917

UL athletic director Bryan Maggard, shown here introducing Billy Napier as the Cajuns' new head coach in December of 2017, is hoping to make another home run hire now that Napier has moved on to the Florida Gators.

UL’s athletic director Dr. Bryan Maggard said coach Billy Napier will be coaching the No. 21-ranked Ragin’ Cajuns in Saturday’s Sun Belt Conference championship game, but it’s unclear if Napier will still be around for the bowl game.

Napier leaving the Cajuns to become the next head coach at Florida was officially announced Sunday. Maggard wasn’t surprised by the news at all and is a “proud athletic director” after the job his hire did at UL over the last four seasons.

“There are always bittersweet moments, but for me personally, it really is more sweet than bitter, because I cannot be more happy for or proud of coach Napier and his family,” Maggard said. “The body of work that he, our student-athletes and the coaching staff past and present have put up until now is absolutely unprecedented.”

Maggard warns he won’t be heard from much over the next few weeks as the search for Napier’s replacement commences. His goal is to have a new head coach by Dec. 15 to make it easier on current UL commitments as national signing day approaches, but it’s not a requirement.

“That’s going to cause us to move swiftly and quickly, but certainly we’re not going to rush,” Maggard said. “If for whatever reason, we can’t have a person identified that we feel would be the next best head coach for us, then we wouldn’t do that.

“But the goal would certainly be to have this done and bring ease and peace of mind to our commitments and our student-athletes.”

Maggard said head coaching experience won’t be necessary, but “they have to know what winning at a high level looks like and how to position us to continue to do that at UL.”

Maggard also wants a “relentless recruiter” who has the ability to recruit Louisiana, Texas and the gulf coast region.

“The first thing I’m always going to look for in a head coach is that person’s ability to build positive relationships with our student-athletes,” Maggard said. “I’m a firm believer that that’s paramount for any coach to be successful.”

While Napier had experience on the staffs of Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, Maggard said he’s not focusing on any particular coaching trees. Outside of not wanting an option coach, the style of play and being an offensive or defensive coach will not determine his choice.

Maggard expects the opening to be “attractive” after three straight double-digit win seasons and being in the Top 25.

“In December of 2017 when I went through this process, the product we had was somewhat broken,” Maggard said. “It was not where it needed to be. Today, that product is not broken. We have a well-oiled machine. We had a formula here. We have an established culture here.

“And so I’m going to make sure that we give great attention to finding ways to keep all of that intact as best as possible.”

Maggard said it’s too early to know which assistant coaches may go to Florida with Napier, and that he’s much more concerned about coaches from other schools poaching players currently on UL’s roster than players leaving with Napier.

Maggard also leaned heavily to UL being in the New Orleans Bowl and even suggested news to that effect could come prior to Saturday’s game.

“The foundation is not fractured here,” Maggard said. “It’s not broken. The product is not broken. That’s why I’ve got to look hard within and look hard outside and make the decision that I think will allow us to keep this well-oiled machine going.”


Email Kevin Foote at kfoote@theadvocate.com.