Summer 2024

Louisiana football coach Billy Napier leans on God as he leads Ragin' Cajuns to historic success

In his four years as the head coach at Louisiana, Billy Napier has brought unprecedented success to the Ragin’ Cajuns football program.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

A dominant 42-14 road win on Saturday over coach Hugh Freeze, star quarterback Malik Willis and Liberty gave the Ragin’ Cajuns their 10th consecutive win in 2021, a program best, and a No. 23 ranking in the AP top-25 poll. Louisiana’s only loss came in its opening game of the season at Texas, 38-18.

This year is now the third straight that Louisiana has reached double-digit wins under Napier, who took over for Mark Hudspeth at the conclusion of the 2017 season. Napier posted a 7-7 record in 2018, followed by an 11-3 record and a LendingTree Bowl win in 2019, and a 10-1 record and a First Responder Bowl win in 2020.

Including this year, Napier’s last three seasons at Louisiana have been the best three seasons in the history of the program. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 14-1 in the month of November under Napier and 31-5 since the start of the 2019 season. Only five programs (Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Cincinnati and Georgia) feature a higher win percentage during that span.

Napier, 42, is a popular name for many Power Five schools with potential coaching vacancies at the end of the season, but he credits God for the strength to remain humble and thankful for the position he’s in.

He explained how on Sports Spectrum’s “Weekly Slant” show with Jade McCarthy last month. Napier said he sets aside time each morning before the rest of the coaching staff arrives to pray, work through devotionals and read about leadership. He said he is currently using Sports Spectrum’s devotionals.

“It’s helped me,” he said. “I know I’m better when I follow through. Certainly, I’m not perfect by any means, but that’s a big part of really keeping perspective.”

Napier grew up knowing about God from a young age. He describes his mother as the anchor of faith for the family, and he came to faith himself at the age of 9. His father came to faith when Billy was 16.

His job at Louisiana is the first time he’s been a head coach. Throughout his time climbing the assistant-coaching ranks under legends like Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney, Napier said his faith has kept him humble and helped him to remember that his identity is not found in the results on the field.

“Football is what you do, but it’s not who you are. In general, the difficult times in your life help you recognize that your faith is kind of the anchor that keeps you from drifting,” he said.

He continued later, “It’s a privilege to be a coach. I’m certainly living my dream … and I’m very thankful for that opportunity. I’m trying to make the best of it.”

Napier and his Ragin’ Cajuns will conclude their 2021 regular season by hosting Louisiana-Monroe, a Sun Belt Conference West Division foe, on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET. A win would give the Ragin’ Cajuns a perfect 8-0 conference record on the season.

They have long since clinched a spot in the Sun Belt’s championship game, to be played at 2:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 4. Louisiana will have home-field advantage in the title game for the first time in program history, as it takes on Appalachian State (9-2), the East Division champs.

WATCH: Sports Spectrum’s ‘Weekly Slant’ w/ Louisiana coach Billy Napier
SS PODCAST: Lee De Leon on ADs4Christ, helping athletic directors follow Jesus
MAGAZINE: Liberty QB Malik Willis stays humble amid the hype
Michigan State QB Payton Thorne looks to God while leading resurgent Spartans
LSU DE Andre Anthony suffers season-ending injury, says ‘God has a special plan’