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Billy Napier pens open letter to Florida fans

The new Florida coach praised his fans' passion while gently reminding them of their responsibility to fund the program's NIL and facilities efforts.

There's no time in a coach's tenure like the honeymoon period. It's shorter than it used to be sure -- what, with the big money contracts and the expectations that go along with them. There's more to be done in the honeymoon period, too, with new rules that allow freshly-hired coaches more latitude to overhaul their rosters. There's the Portal, which runs both ways for new coaches -- getting the right players out of it, and keeping your current players from joining it. Lest we not forget traditional recruiting, too. That new car smell only lasts so long, so new head coaches hit the trail hard with nothing but sunshine and open depth charts ahead of them. And then there's NIL. 

If you're going to ask your fan base for money, the honeymoon period is the time to do it. Your fans haven't seen you coach a game yet, which means they haven't seen you lose a game yet.

On Friday, new Florida coach penned an open letter to the Gator Nation, where he gingerly passed the offering plate and asked his fans to ante up. Let's see how he did it. 

Gator Nation,

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for the tremendous amount of support you have shown our entire organization, team and our families since our arrival in Gainesville.

We recently had the opportunity to visit various cities across Gator Nation during my first spring speaking tour, and all we can say is that each day we are more and more excited to be part of the University of Florida.

Our fans’ passion is evident and unmatched.

We play in one of the most iconic places in college football: The Swamp. This year’s Orange and Blue Game gave us a small taste of what playing in front of Gator Nation is like, and we can’t wait to get started this fall by hosting Pac-12 champion Utah on Sept. 3 under the lights.

We are working on creating a new future through a journey that emphasizes discipline, toughness, detail, accountability, integrity, and most importantly, teamwork.

Our mission is to make a life-changing impact on our players and for them to experience success in life as a result of their time in our program. We want to promote their education and encourage them to not only get a degree, but to be engaged, network and develop relationships. 

Okay, so far, so good. But this is pretty standard stuff. Why is he telling us this? And why now? 

As we enter a new era of college football with Name, Image and Likeness, we are fortunate to be at a place that is not only rich in history and tradition on the football field, but is also a top 5 public institution with more than 470,000 living alumni and incredible resources. We believe that NIL will be a strength at the University of Florida.

We also believe in the professional development of our athletes. For that reason, we established the GatorMade program, a holistic player-focused and purpose-driven initiative that seeks to develop Gators beyond the football field by providing them with the necessary skills to succeed in life.

GatorMade provides opportunities in financial literacy, micro-internships, networking, mentorship, agent education, NIL, business weekend trips and even service abroad. We want to have a place where we work toward having a life-changing impact as a person, as a student and as a player. And GatorMade provides the building blocks. 

Ah, now I see. In addition to the crowd-funded Gator Made, Florida also has Gator Guard, a Florida-focused hedge fund run by an "exclusive, very influential group of high-net-worth Gators" whose clients are 4- and 5-star football players. 

We are also getting ready to move into the new James W. “Bill” Heavener Football Training Center this summer. The state-of-the-art 140,000 square foot standalone facility will be a game-changer as it relates to our day-to-day football operations, sports medicine and rehabilitation, recruiting, dining and recreation to name a few. The $85 million facility will not only make an impact within our program, but it will also benefit all Gators student-athletes. 

Don't think that fans' and boosters' new responsibilities to fill the NIL bucket each year absolves them of the burden of also keeping up in the facilities arms race, too.

On the football field, our goal is to play a brand of football that creates a great sense of pride among not only our players and staff, but throughout all of Gator Nation.

One thing we have learned in the past six months is that Gators are resilient and passionate. In all kinds of weather.

I can assure you that no one has higher expectations for what we want to accomplish than me.

This will be a team effort. All of us, no matter what our role is, can make a positive impact in the success of our program. From our students cheering their loudest on Saturdays at The Swamp, to our boosters, alumni and everyday fans: We all must have a championship approach in all that we do.

You are part of this team, and we can’t wait to see you at The Swamp this fall as we embark on the journey to our new future.

Go Gators!

And that, friends, is the fundraising sandwich. You open with some sweet words about how great the fans are, you deftly pass out the offering plate, and then you close with more sweet words about just how special the fans are. 

Go Gators!