Former Tiger talks Elliott leaving for Virginia, his son's commitment status

Former Tiger talks Elliott leaving for Virginia, his son's commitment status


Former Tiger talks Elliott leaving for Virginia, his son's commitment status


The Clemson Insider recently spoke with Patrick Sapp to get some insight on Tony Elliott accepting the head coaching job at the University of Virginia.

Sapp hit on a number of topics during the following question-and-answer session, including his thoughts and reactions to his close, personal friend making a significant decision, how this impacts his son, Josh, and where Clemson goes from here.

There are very few people who know Virginia’s new head coach and the inner workings of Clemson’s program better than Sapp, a former Tigers’ linebacker himself. It was only right to catch up with Sapp after Friday’s events unfolded.

Note: This interview was edited and condensed for clarity

Being that you’re close with Tony Elliott, can we get your overall reaction to him accepting the University of Virginia job and him electing to go over to Charlottesville?

Of course, I definitely wanted him to stay at Clemson. It’s just my personal selfishness, as well as I know how my son really feels about Coach Elliott and a lot of his decision on going to Clemson was both Coach Elliott and Coach Swinney. So, I know he’s somewhat disappointed. But for me, I’m happy for him. It’s well deserved. I think if you’re doing it the right way as a program, people are gonna want your coaches. And if that’s the case, which that’s the case with Clemson, you’re gonna lose guys. I think Coach Swinney and those guys stayed at Clemson a long time and have been committed even after being offered numerous jobs over the years.

I knew it was gonna happen. I know Coach Swinney knew it was gonna happen. If you have any understanding of coaching and collegiate football, this day was coming at some point. I’m happy for him, man. It’s well deserved. It’s been well deserved for a long time. I know he thought about it long and hard and prayed about it. He’s made the right decision for himself and his family.

You mentioned that [Clemson 2022 three-star tight end commit] Josh [Sapp] is disappointed, but he plans to still sign with Clemson?

Yes. Yes. Yes. We’re still committed to Clemson, no doubt. I know he and Tony really had a good relationship and he has a lot of respect for Coach Elliott. He’s a bright young man. He understands that these things happen and will happen. But, we’re still committed to the program.

From your vantage point, is losing Tony Elliott and Brent Venables to Virginia and Oklahoma, respectively, a testament to this program and what Clemson has been able to build under Dabo Swinney?

Yeah, no doubt. You look at the great programs. You look at the great head coaches. You always find a coaching tree and kind of trail that leads back to those guys, those great head coaches, and great programs. You just look at the last 40 or 50 years, there are probably six or seven great coaches that you can recall that probably has a tree lineage of coaches 20 deep.

So yes, it’s a testament to the program and again, I knew it was gonna happen. Coach Swinney knew it was gonna happen. I’m sure he’s had some kind of preparation for it. I’m sure he probably didn’t think it would happen with two coordinators in one year at the same time. I know that’s hard to plan for…but, thank God again. I feel like what helps programs move through these things successfully is stability.

Even with [Dan Radakovich] leaving, you have great folks in Graham Neff that have been a part of Clemson for 6-7, 10 years. Even though you lose your [Athletic Director] you still got people there that have been working in that department and working end to end that understand and know Clemson. Same thing with the staff. You got a lot of folks in that building that have been there for a number of years. Even though you’re losing two great guys that are in a lot of ways that’ll be hard to replace, no doubt, but you always got to look at things as an opportunity. I think for Clemson and that staff that’s there and Coach Swinney, he’s gonna look at this as an opportunity to get better — believe it or not — and an opportunity to bring some fresh ideas, some new life, some new energy because all that’s always important. That’s gonna weigh a lot into his decision-making. That’s kind of how we’re looking at it from a parent standpoint and somebody that’s been around the program, myself, as an opportunity. It’s not as if the sky is falling. This is a great — in my opinion — opportunity for Clemson.

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