Photo: Billy Napier and the Florida Gators; Credit: Alex Shepherd
How desperate are times in Gainesville?
According to Pat Forde, senior writer for Sports IllustratedThe Florida Gators are a borderline desperate program when it comes to competing for a return to prominence.
Their decade-plus absence from the National Championship game isn’t as dry a drought as other Bluebloods have endured. But since then, the Gators have… well, we’ll let Pat explain the post-Urban Meyer era of Florida football.
The Gators have been close—they were in the CFP mix until the Infamous Thrown Cleat game against LSU in 2020. They played for the SEC championship that year and played well. They’ve won the division a few times in the past decade, but they’ve also gone through coaches and appear to be closer to third or fourth in the SEC East than first.
- Last national championship: 2008.
- Recent Conference Championship: 2008.
- Last appearance in a conference championship game: 2020.
Return movements: Fired Dan Mullen and hired Billy Napier, the Gators’ fourth full-time coach in nine seasons. Produced a team photo of 144 staff members (which was explained as a comprehensive photo). A new palace facility was opened that cost 85 million dollars. There is currently the 8th class of recruitment in the country for the year 2023.
- Earnings percentage in the 1980s: .668
- Percentage of earnings in the 1990s: .820
- Percentage of profits in the 2000s: .769
- Percentage of profits in the 2010s: .638
- Percentage of earnings in the 2020s: .560
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Here is where All Gators comes to.
Forde asked for our help in gauging the expectations of the Gators’ fan base for Napier’s first season at the UF helm and how desperate the Florida faithful are to climb back to the top of the college football landscape.
The questions weren’t exactly the easiest to answer—requiring a balancing act to objectively create expectations for a Gators rebuilding program while understanding that Florida fans tend to get impatient with their football coaches at times. The last.
Can the Gators find a happy medium in 2022, perhaps not claiming to win the SEC East right away, but giving fans enough hope for the future to not call for Napier’s job when the next offseason begins? Below are our thoughts.
How hungry are the fans? Zach Goodall, publisher of AllGators.com, replies: “Napier has tried his best to appease the appetites of the fans. Since his introductory press conference, Napier has emphasized the need to restructure every aspect of Florida football, and athletic director Scott Stricklin has given him the resources — a vastly expanded budget and what feels like a 500-member support staff — to make it happen. …
“Post-Urban Meyer, every Gators coach has managed to start their tenure only to uniquely crash and burn by the end, giving the fan base false hope right out of the gate before the coaches have running out of water bottles to try to put it out. It may be in the best interest of fans to endure a real rebuilding year before reaping the benefits of a drastic change in approach, and that could very well be in 2022.”
Expectations for the season: “From my perspective, winning eight or more games considering the shape of this roster and the schedule ahead of the Gators would be an accomplishment,” Goodall says. “With success on the recruiting trail offering hope for the future, fans would probably settle for an 8-4 finish, in third place or better in the SEC East.
“But it raises some questions: Will prospects remain committed to the program’s vision if Florida doesn’t play up to its standards in Napier’s first campaign? What would it take to keep those commitments? Are close losses to Utah, LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M are acceptable from a recruit’s perspective? What if you lose out on both Kentucky and Tennessee, which can’t be considered out of the realm of possibility? Sure, maybe Florida can make it and otherwise from Mullen, Jim McElwain and Will Muschamp, Napier can continue to grow as a result of this momentum.”
Stay tuned with All Gators for ongoing coverage of Florida Gators football, basketball and recruiting. Follow on social media at @SI_AllGators on Twitter and All Gators on FanNation-Sports Illustrated on Facebook.