Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football coach Billy Napier hired as Florida Gators' new coach

Florida holds off Florida State (1:51)

Florida holds off Florida State to win its sixth game of the season. (1:51)

Florida has hired Louisiana's Billy Napier as the Gators' next football coach, the school announced Sunday.

"We are humbled and honored to accept this incredible opportunity to be the head football coach at the University of Florida," Napier said in a statement. "Our team, staff and entire organization will work daily to establish a program with integrity and class that we all can be proud of. More importantly, we will build a culture that is centered around making an impact on our players; as people, as students, and on the field.

"We embrace the expectations and are excited about the challenge ahead. We will assemble a special group of people and immediately get to work building a great program. A special thank you to President Dr. [Kent] Fuchs and Athletic Director Scott Stricklin. We look forward to getting to Gainesville and starting this journey!"

Napier plans to coach the Ragin' Cajuns in the Sun Belt championship game against Appalachian State on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Napier, 42, has been at Louisiana the past four seasons and led the Ragin' Cajuns to 10 or more wins in each of the past three seasons. Before his arrival, Louisiana had never won 10 games in a season in program history.

He turned down multiple SEC head-coaching opportunities in recent years and again emerged as a target for several high-profile positions this season. LSU and Virginia Tech were also interested in Napier during this hiring cycle.

"I've followed and studied Billy Napier's career with interest, and he became the primary target immediately after this position came open," Stricklin said in a statement. "We felt confident he would be an excellent leader for the Gators, which is why he was the only candidate I met with about the job."

Napier, a former Furman quarterback, coached under Dabo Swinney at Clemson and Nick Saban at Alabama. He was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arizona State for one season before landing the Louisiana job in 2018.

A tenacious recruiter, Napier's offenses at Louisiana have averaged 31.9 points or more per game all four of his seasons in Lafayette.

He replaces Dan Mullen, who was 34-15 in four seasons at Florida and took the Gators to the SEC championship game a year ago. But Mullen lost four straight games to Power 5 teams this season and was 3-9 against Power 5 foes dating back to the final three games of the 2020 season.

Florida defeated rival Florida State 24-21 in Saturday's regular-season finale to finish 6-6 and qualify for the postseason. The Gators' 2-6 SEC record was their worst in the league since 1986.

Napier becomes the fourth Florida head coach since 2014, Will Muschamp's final season in Gainesville. The Gators last won an SEC championship in 2008. Between 1991 and 2008, they won eight SEC titles, six of those by Steve Spurrier.