Voice of the Ragin’ Cajuns Reflects on Billy Napier’s Legacy at UL
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football head coach Billy Napier still has one more game to coach in Lafayette before he leaves to become the head coach at the University of Florida.
While Napier will be around for that contest, Saturday's Sun Belt Conference Championship Game, fans and media alike are already measuring Napier's legacy on the Cajuns football program, the athletic department, and the University of Louisiana as a whole.
Many fans are using Napier's on-field success as one measuring stick for his legacy. Four Sun Belt Western Division championships, two bowl victories, a conference co-championship, and leading the Cajuns to hosting the 2021 Sun Belt title game are among the accomplishments that have been cited repeatedly online and on message boards. Others say Florida's hiring of Napier is also part of his legacy.
Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns play-by-play announcer Jay Walker is in the latter camp.
"Let's understand something: No school has ever come to UL and taken their head coach," Walker said. "Until Ricky Bustle, no UL coach had ever coached again in any capacity. The fact that somebody came and got him is part of his legacy. What he has done is he has shown that with the right amount of support that UL can be one of the top (Group of Five) programs in America. The fact that they've been nationally ranked for the last two years underscores that. I think the Cajuns were already on the map as far as the football program is concerned, but I think the map now has Louisiana in bold letters."
According to Walker, Napier held true to his pledge to recruiting players within a six-and-a-half-hour radius of Lafayette. That has allowed Napier and his staff to bring top talent from across the South to the University of Louisiana. Some of those players are now making a living playing football on Sundays.
"He's brought in some very good talent, and he's had some very good staff to coach them up," Walker said. "As a result, you're about to lose another lineman to the National Football League. You have a running back who was not recruited by Coach Napier (but coached by him and his staff) who had 130 yards rushing in the NFL yesterday. You have other guys whom I think will have a chance to play professional football, so the talent he's brought in has been really good."
Walker says Napier's legacy also includes building community support for the football team and the UL athletic department as a whole. According to Walker, Napier did this by holding himself, his players, and his program to the highest of standards.
"The reason he's been able to do that is because he's done it the right way. He came in here (and) didn't cut corners. I think that everyone understands that he is a man of high integrity and that he put the student and the student-athlete as a priority. You didn't hear about football players getting in trouble under Billy Napier because those are some of the values that he instilled in this football program. Not only has this team won, but this team has won the right way, and they've given Acadiana something they can be really proud of."
To hear more of Walker's comments about Napier's legacy and the type of person the university will try to hire to succeed Napier, watch the video below.