This phase of The Grand Experiment at Arizona State is officially an abject failure.
In hiring Herm Edwards, it was known that ASU was looking to retain both of Todd Graham‘s coordinators in an effort to ease Edwards’ return to coaching after a decade-long absence. Earlier this week, the new Sun Devils head coach confirmed that defensive coordinator Phil Bennett was leaving the staff because of what were described as “family matters.” Overnight, reports surfaced that offensive coordinator Billy Napier had been offered the head-coaching job at a Sun Belt Conference program and was likely to accept it.
Friday afternoon, that likelihood became a reality as Louisiana announced that Napier has been named as the Ragin’ Cajuns next head football coach. Napier replaces Mark Hudspeth, fired earlier this month after seven years with the program.
The football program will officially introduce their new coach at a Monday press conference.
“My family and I are excited and humbled for the opportunity to serve Cajun Nation and our Louisiana football program,” Napier said. “We will make it a priority to bring in the best talent from the state of Louisiana and the nation.”
Napier just completed his first season at ASU. Prior to that, he spent five seasons as the wide receivers coach at Alabama. Next Sept. 29th, Napier’s Ragin’ Cajuns squad will square off with… the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
With Napier’s hiring, Kent State is the lone FBS program without a head coach.
So much for that plan.
The odd marriage of Arizona State and long-time but not-in-a-long-time NFL coach Herm Edwards was made even odder by the fact that Edwards was retaining Todd Graham‘s entire offensive coaching staff. Less than two weeks into his tenure, however, there could be a glitch in the plans to help ease Edwards’s return to coaching as 247Sports.com is reporting that Louisiana (the school formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette) has offered its head-coaching job to Billy Napier.
The 38-year-old Napier had just completed his first season as ASU’s offensive coordinator. He was also given the title of associate head coach upon Edwards’ hiring.
Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry was also one of the potential candidates for the Louisiana job who interviewed for the opening.
Whoever gets the job with the Ragin’ Cajuns will be replacing Mark Hudspeth, fired earlier this month after seven years with the program.
Louisiana-Lafayette has made a somewhat surprising coaching change on Sunday. Mark Hudspeth has reportedly been fired as head coach of the Ragin’ Cajuns. Tim Buckley of The Daily Advertiser reported the news, via Twitter.
The firing comes a day after Louisiana was demolished by Appalachian State on Saturday in the regular season finale. The loss dropped the program to 5-7 for the season, preventing the Ragin’ Cajuns from reaching bowl eligibility for the second time in three seasons. Hudspeth has coached ULL to a bowl game in five seasons, with each trip going to the New Orleans Bowl. ULL was 4-1 in those five bowl appearances.
Hudspeth was 51-38 in seven seasons with the program. Don’t expect Hudspeth to be out of a job for too long. Hudspeth would make for a good offensive coordinator at the worst for some program in need of an offensive coordinator next year, and his head coaching experience still should make him an interesting name to be considered for some head coaching vacancies that may come open.
Because it’s the only league in the FBS without a conference championship game, the Sun Belt will have co-champions in back-to-back seasons.
Heading into Week 14, Appalachian State, Arkansas State and Troy were all tied atop the conference standings at 6-1 in league play. Appalachian State was set to host Louisiana in the early game, with the other two first-place teams squaring off in the late game.
Appalachian State ensured quite quickly that there would be no solo champion this season as ASU took the Team Formerly Known as Louisiana-Lafayette to the woodshed in a 63-14 win. The Mountaineers pounded out the victory mainly on the ground, rushing for 357 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Taylor Lamb did toss four touchdown passes — and ran for one of the five — as part of the title-winning performance.
This marks ASU’s second SBC championship, shared or otherwise, since they joined the conference in 2014. They did, though, have 18 conference crowns as an FCS power.
In the later game, Troy outscored Arkansas State 25-15 in the second half to come away with a wild 32-25 win. The most remarkable aspect of the win? The Trojans were outgained 606-293 on offense.
Despite that, Troy claimed its sixth title in SBC history. It’s also its first since 2010, which marked the end of its run of five straight championships.
This marks the eighth time since 2001 that there has been SBC co-champions in football.
And then there were three. Still.
Entering Week 13, there were three one-loss teams in the Sun Belt Conference. Exiting, that number remains static as the trio of Appalachian State (31-10 over Georgia State), Arkansas State (67-50 over Louisiana-Monroe) and Troy (62-9 over Texas State) all held serve.
That means the only FBS conference without a championship game will be decided next Saturday in two separate games — Arkansas State plays host to Troy, while Louisiana (4-3 in SBC play) travels to Appalachian State, with all three holding title hopes currently sitting at 6-1.
The scenarios are relatively obvious:
The Arkansas State-Troy winner claims a share of the SBC title if Appalachian State wins
The Arkansas State-Troy winner claims the SBC title if Appalachian State loses
Appalachian State claims a share of the SBS title with a win
Arkansas State has won or shared six championships since the league was formed in 2001, while Troy has won five and Appalachian State one. That lone for the latter came last season when they shared it with Arkansas State.