Between the nationally ranked college team at the school he’s at now, five minor-league teams in the state, an assortment of youth leagues and Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals located in the nation’s capitol nearby, Tony Elliott classified baseball as “big” in Virginia.
That’s a good thing for Virginia’s first-year football coach, who doubles as an avid baseball fan, as well as his family. Elliott said his oldest son, A.J. is already playing up on a 12-year-old team in the Charlottesville area while his youngest, Ace, is competing in the sport with the 7-10 age group.
“They’re both doing good,” Elliott told The Clemson Insider this week during the ACC’s spring meetings. “And the schools are awesome.”
As for Elliott and his wife, Tamika, he said they’ve found Charlottesville to have the same charming feel as their previous town despite it having a population roughly three times the size of Clemson. Elliott has few if any complaints about the process of getting he and his family settled in a home that, in some ways, reminds him of his old one.
“It’s very similar to Clemson in that it’s a college town, so that made for an easier transition,” Elliott said. “Everybody associated with the university has a similar passion, love and appreciation for the university just like they did at Clemson. So that actually eased some of the transition. And then the wife was kind of able to learn from Miss Kathleen (Dabo Swinney’s wife). She’s been busy just trying to establish the network, environment and culture within the coaches’ wives. They’re transitioning well.”
It’s been five months since Elliott left Clemson after spending 11 seasons on Swinney’s staff, including the last seven as the Tigers’ primary offensive play caller. Duke also courted the 42-year-old once the regular season was over, but after years of other programs kicking the tires on Elliott, he finally decided to make the Virginia job his first as a head coach.
It’s been a blur for Elliott since he was officially hired in mid-December. From getting the move finalized to hiring his first coaching staff to recruiting to coaching his new team for the first time this spring, Elliott said his whirlwind schedule made it hard to find time to let his new reality sink in.
That moment finally came before the Cavaliers’ spring game last month during the Wahoo Walk, a pregame tradition similar to Clemson’s TigerWalk where players are greeted by fans as they make their way to the stadium.
“Every day is different, but I’m starting to get settled in a little bit more,” Elliott said. “Now I’m actually realizing I am the head coach because, to be honest with you, everything was so fast that I really didn’t realize it until the spring game because you’re constantly busy doing something. And then we’re getting ready to do the Wahoo walk. That was something they hadn’t done in years. But just trying to create some more fan engagement and experience for the players, and it hit me like, ‘Man, you’re the head coach.’”
Elliott is taking over a program that’s been mired in ACC mediocrity for a while. The Cavaliers have had just three winning seasons since 2007, though two of those have come in the last four years. Virginia, a member of the Coastal Division, went 6-6 in Bronco Mendenhall’s final season at the helm last fall.
But Elliot said what he’s experienced so far in a short of amount of time in Virginia has him encouraged about the work he’s got ahead of him.
“Everybody has been great,” he said. “(Virginia athletic director) Carla (Williams) has been awesome to work with. The staff has really come together, jumped on board and is pulling in the same direction. The players are excited. It’s been a lot of different emotions, but it’s been really good.”
Photo courtesy of Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports
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