Despite reports that Louisiana head coach Billy Napier is a front-runner to replace Gus Malzahn as the head coach at Auburn, the university of Louisiana at Lafayette has confirmed that Napier has no plans to leave.
A statement released by the UL Athletic Department at noon Monday reads, "Billy Napier is committed to being the head coach of the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns, moving forward. Amidst recent speculation and media reports, the Louisiana Department of Athletics is confirming that Coach Napier will continue to lead the Ragin’ Cajuns Football program."
Director of Athletics Bryan Maggard also weighed in.
"We are very excited about the future of Ragin’ Cajuns Football under Coach Napier’s leadership," Maggard said in a prepared statement. "We will continue to invest in the program to ensure we maintain and grow our successes. We believe a successful football program elevates the profile of the entire university, and we know there is much more to accomplish.”
FOX sports reporter Bruce Feldmen also tweeted around noon Monday: "Billy Napier was someone #Auburn was very interested in, but sources tell me the Louisiana head coach is expected to remain with the Ragin Cajuns, and is very excited about the direction of their program and what they're building there."
FootballScoop.com had reported Monday morning 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.