Football: A day in UL coach Napier's new life opens with school
Tim Buckley, The Advertiser, May 17, 2020
In the two months or so since the coronavirus pandemic changed his calendar, a day in the life of Billy Napier has been nothing like it would be at this time of year in any other offseason.
Typically, it’s all about preparation for the season to come.
But in mid-March, with just three of 15 sessions in the book, spring practice was canceled. Recruiting has gone virtual, with no more on-campus or in-home visits. Meetings with players and coaching staff members have been held on Zoom, not truly face-to-face, since then.
And at home, the routine has been — suffice it to say — a new frontier for the married 40-year-old father of three and his young family.
Ragin' Cajuns coach Billy Napier, his wife Ali Napier and their family are introduced when he was hired by UL in December 2017. (Photo: SCOTT CLAUSE/THE ADVERTISER)
“As soon as I found out how we were going to be operating here,” Napier said during a recent Zoom teleconference with local reporters, “I immediately thought about my wife.
“Because all of sudden her schedule — the apple cart — was about to be turned upside down.”
Billy and Ali Napier have three young children, sons Charlie, 3, and Sammy Nelson, 5, and 7-year-old daughter Annie.
With Billy Napier having much more time than usual at home the past couple months, he said he’s been watching over the kids in the early hours, allowing Ali to keep some semblance of her usual morning activities.
“She typically would drop the kids off and then go have a workout or have a little ‘her time,’” he said, “so we’ve tried to keep that intact just for her sanity, if that makes sense.
“So I’ve got them in the morning, and we’ve got a good little routine. … We’re basically doing it just like school, Monday through Friday.”
Napier, much like most coaches, sounds like a taskmaster.
“Wake ’em up … make their bed … clean their room,” he said.
Some of the staples follow.
“A little breakfast … a little prayer … a little pledge,” Napier said. “We do some Bible class, we do some penmanship. Man, we’ve got math, we’ve got all kinds of stuff.”
There’s time, of course, for recess, and time to watch YouTube videos as well.
“We’ve got it all,” said Napier, who has added the hat of "tutor" to those of father and coach.
“Ali does a good job of organizing that in the evening, and then I just kind of do what she tells me to do.”
She’s more of the head coach in this instance, in other words, and he’s the coordinator who executes the game plan.
POSSIBLE RETURN TO CAMPUS
Around 10:30 or 10:45 in the morning, Professor Napier — statewide stay-at-home orders over most of the past couple months notwithstanding — usually has managed to sneak away from home into his real office.
“They’re still letting me come in here — myself, nobody else,” he said, sounding suspiciously like a kid accustomed to sneaking into the gym at midnight for a workout using keys slipped to him by some coach or maybe even the school janitor.
He’s done a couple national-scale media interviews, one recently from his office with Pat McAfee, a colorful college football analyst who hosts a YouTube show, and another in the past week with longtime syndicated talk-show host Jim Rome on the CBS Sports Network.
But Napier has spent much of many afternoons in coaching-related Zoom meetings of one sort or another with his assistants and players as they prep for a season whose start date — if there even is one — remains uncertain for now because of the coronavirus crisis.
The install that otherwise would have happened on the field and in meeting rooms during the spring is now happening on laptops in the living room, bedroom or wherever there’s not a dead spot.
But Napier suggested to Rome a few days ago, on the same day he was in on a conference call involving Sun Belt Conference commissioner Keith Gill and others, that it’s possible some college football teams could start their offseason/preseason programs sometime in July.
“I think the consensus there is most leagues presented a six-week return-to-play protocol,” he told Rome.
“I think you may need a little more time than that, and I think we’re gonna get it.”
So the schedule Napier has held the past couple months could soon take a twist as the state slowly starts its first reopening phase.
UL athletic director Bryan Maggard suggested Friday that, developments with the coronavirus permitting, some student-athletes could start to return to campus as soon as next month.
“We’re gonna proceed with getting our student-athletes back here in early June,” Maggard said, “and make sure that we have all the protocols and guidelines to ensure safety the best we can in place.”
According to a Sports Illustrated report from Friday, on Wednesday the NCAA Division I Council “could lift a nationwide moratorium on on-campus summer activities … as soon as June 1.”
But Napier also suggested that the manner and time frame in which all teams return may not be uniform across the country.
That’s because all FBS conferences include teams from multiple states and not all states will be on the same return-from-coronavirus-quarantine schedule.
'EVENTUALLY WE'LL GET FOOTBALL BACK'
The Sun Belt alone has programs in seven different states for football.
Louisiana. Texas. Arkansas. Alabama. Georgia. North Carolina. South Carolina.
Find at an atlas, and, if the semester still is in session, that could be Monday's geography class in Napier's home school.
In any case, Napier told Rome, “I think eventually we’ll get football back.”
In Louisiana, it’s been announced that all schools in the UL system — including SBC members UL and UL Monroe — currently intend to have in-person classes in the fall semester to come.
In other parts of the country — including California, whose state university system already has canceled most in-person classes in the fall — that’s not the case.
Fearful things may get worse before they get better, they’re planning to stick mostly with virtual learning for a while.
For now, then, Napier waits and wonders like all interested parties to see what’s really going to come September.
Will UL’s Sept. 5 season-opener kick off as planned? Will the start of the season be delayed? Will there be non-conference games, or bowl games, or not games at all?
Will he be overseeing preseason camp in July and August, or will he still be tutoring his own kids in math and penmanship then?
Napier waits and wonders with his players still scattered in their respective states, and his own kids still corralled at home.
Teaching duties at Napier Academy aren’t done until the virus is, then, and neither is the necessity for the ol’ ball coach to get keep control of his classroom.
So until it's time for a little break keep the lesson plans coming, Ali. Work on that handwriting, Annie. Make your bed, Sammy Nelson. Clean your room, if a 3-year-old even can, Charlie.
And enjoy recess.