Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was already tasked with finding one new coordinator. Now he’ll be pulling double duty in that regard.
Tony Elliott is changing teams in the ACC. After mulling an offer to be the head coach at the University of Virginia, Clemson’s offensive coordinator has decided to take it. The school announced his hiring Friday afternoon.
Elliott will replace Bronco Mendenhall, who abruptly resigned at Virginia earlier this month after six seasons at the helm.
The announcement ends an eventful week for Elliott, who was in the running at two ACC schools. It started with him interviewing for the head coaching vacancy at Duke. By the middle of the week, with Virginia making a forceful pivot to Elliott after Penn State co-defensive coordinator and Virginia alum Anthony Poindexter reportedly pulled his name out of the running for the job, Elliott and his family were on a plane to Charlottesville to meet with president Jim Ryan and other Virginia officials.
They stayed in Virginia overnight before returning to Clemson late Thursday afternoon with an offer in hand, but Elliott hadn’t decided at that point if he wanted to take another job. By Friday afternoon, though, Elliott had finalized a deal to become a head coach for the first time in his career, ending his seven-year run as a play caller at Clemson.
The news comes just five days after Brent Venables also officially took the opportunity to run his own program for the first time at Oklahoma, ending his decade-long run as Clemson’s defensive coordinator. Venables joined Swinney’s staff one year after Elliott, who spent 11 seasons as an assistant at Clemson, the last two as the Tigers’ offensive coordinator.
During that time, Elliott turned down head coaching overtures from other FBS schools as he gradually morphed into one of the country’s top offensive assistants.
A former Clemson receiver, Elliott has spent the bulk of his coaching career at his alma mater. After getting started as an assistant at South Carolina State and later Furman, Elliott returned to Clemson in 2011 as Swinney’s running backs coach. He had co-offensive coordinator added to his title in 2015, and once former offensive assistant Jeff Scott took the head coaching job at South Florida before the 2020 season, Swinney made Elliott the Tigers’ full-time offensive coordinator.
With a first-year starting quarterback in D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson has fallen into the bottom half nationally in points (79th) and yards (95th) this season, but it’s been far from the norm for Elliott’s offenses. Clemson ranked in the top 40 in the FBS in both categories each of the previous six seasons, including three straight seasons of top-5 scoring offenses.
Elliott won the Broyles Award as college football’s top assistant coach in 2017, a year after Venables took the honor. Now he’s taking over a program that had varying success under his predecessor but will soon be getting a facelift to its facilities.
Virginia, which competes in the ACC’s Coastal Division, had its best season under Mendenhall in 2019 when the Cavaliers won nine games and played in the Orange Bowl, but Virginia has dropped to .500 overall over the last two seasons (11-11). The Cavaliers will take a 6-6 record into the Fenway Bowl against SMU later this month.
Earlier Friday, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors reportedly approved the athletic department’s request to transfer $10.3 million from the school’s endowment fund to go toward the construction of a new football facility there.
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