Playing on a Friday comes with mixed emotion for Cajuns coach Billy Napier
As someone whose late father Bill Napier was a longtime Georgia high school football coach, Billy Napier knows how sacred Friday nights are to some.
The UL coach also knows what pays the bills.
It's why Napier, whose brother is coach at LaGrange High in Georgia, has mixed emotions about the Ragin' Cajuns (3-1) playing at UAB (4-1) on a Friday night. Even if CBS Sports Network will televise the game at 7 p.m. Central.
“I think there’s financial implications there relative to being on national TV,” Napier said with reference to Conference USA's contractual partnership with CBS Sports Network.
CBS, which owns rights to C-USA’s championship game as part of a multiyear agreement with the league, is airing at least five Friday night games this season involving at least one C-USA team.
Friday's game involving the Cajuns – who belong to the Sun Belt Conference, which has a multimedia rights agreement with ESPN – marks the fifth in a row for UL in front of a national cable television audience.
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Napier’s club upset then-No. 25 Iowa State on ESPN on a Saturday, beat Georgia State and Georgia Southern in ESPN2 Saturday morning games, then lost last week to Coastal Carolina on ESPN on a Wednesday night – all valuable exposure for a program ranked No. 21 in the Amway Coaches Poll and Associated Press Top 25 before falling to the Chanticleers.
The Cajuns’ upcoming game on Halloween night, a Saturday, at Texas State will air on ESPNU.
The CBS Sports Network appearance offers similar exposure to the ESPN network games – but it comes, Napier suggested when asked, with something of a price.
“I do think it benefits us when we can play on these types of stages and this type of audience – from a program and university and community standpoint,” the Cajuns coach said.
“But I do think there should be a genuine respect for Friday night football and the high school games that are taking place.”
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UL starting offensive tackle Max Mitchell, now grown out of the uniform he wore at Neville High in Monroe, admittedly figured it would “fun to get under Friday night lights one more time.”
But Mitchell sees both sides of the coin too.
“I don’t really mind when we play. It doesn’t matter much to me,” he said. “But I can see how it would piss off some high school … player or something like that if we came to town.”
On a Friday, that is.
It’s a day that historically hasn’t exactly treated the Cajuns well, incidentally.
UL’s last game on a Friday night was in 2010, when the Cajuns lost 54-28 to Oklahoma State in 2010.
Since 1970 they are 0-5-1 on Friday nights, also losing at home to North Texas in 2004, tying McNeese to close the 1977 season, losing at home to San Jose State and Arkansas State to finish the 1974 season and losing at home to McNeese to end the season in 1971.
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