Louisiana head coach Billy Napier has emerged as the front-runner to replace Gus Malzahn as the head coach at Auburn, according to a report Monday morning from 247sports.com.
In addition, FootballScoop.com reported Monday that Napier’s interview at Auburn went very well.
Malzahn, who was in his eighth year at Auburn, was fired Dec. 13 after the Tigers finished the regular season with a 6-4 record. Malzahn had just finished the third season of a seven-year, $49-million contract signed following the 2017 campaign, and it is reportedly being paid $21 million to walk away.
Billy Napier has been in the mix for a number of head coaching vacancies this year, including, most recently, South Carolina. A year ago, Napier’s name surfaced in job searches for openings at Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Memphis, Arkansas and Baylor.
On Dec. 5, Napier issued the following statement to address the South Carolina rumors:
“It’s humbling to be considered a worthy candidate for any job opening, but it’s also important to realize this is a direct reflection of our entire organization from top to bottom,” Napier said in the statement. “Here at the University of Louisiana, we have a special group of people that take tremendous pride in their role. We have dynamic leadership and a unique pride and passion for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
“We are excited to announce that we are moving forward at Louisiana. We look forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead, and we are thankful for the opportunity to represent this community and university.”
Napier, 41, just finished his third season at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The Cajuns finished 9-1 in the regular season and were prepared to face Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference Championship when the game was canceled at the last minute because of positive COVID-19 tests among the Chanticleers.
The No.17 ranked Cajuns will play the University of Texas-San Antonio on Saturday in the ServPro First Responders Bowl in Dallas.
Napier is the highest paid coach in the Sun Belt Conference. He signed a two-year contract extension in January, with a base salary of $880,000 this year and escalating to $950,000 in its final year, 2025.