On Monday afternoon, Carla Williams and Jim Ryan introduced Tony Elliott as the next head coach of the Virginia Cavaliers. In his introductory press conference, Elliott addressed and was asked about a wide variety of topics concerning the program, its future, and the goals he has.
Grateful for the opportunity
To open the presser, Elliott expressed his gratitude for the position he’s now in:
“It’s with great humility that I sit before you today. I must begin by thanking the good Lord above for directing my path and ordering my steps along this awesome journey of life. To the Board of Visitors, President Ryan, the entire administration, I’m extremely grateful for the trust and belief that you all have in me to lead the football program at the University of Virginia.”
“To Carla, words can’t express how excited I am to partner with you as we take Virginia football into the future. Also I’ve got to thank you for seeing something in me that compelled you to take a chance. To the faculty, staff, student body and alumni of this world-class university, I’m extremely grateful to become a part of the UVA family. “
Reasoning for choosing UVA
In regards to why he chose UVA to be the school where he took his first head coaching gig after plenty of opportunities over recent years, Elliott underscored his commitment to a school that is committed to athletics and academics.
“I wanted to compete in the best conference in college athletics. I wanted to be a part of an alignment with Ms. Carla and President Ryan that shared a vision that was similar to mine, which is centered around the holistic development of the student-athlete. And lastly, I wanted to be part of a university and athletic department that would not compromise its values to win.”
“There is no better place for me than UVA. And there is no better time than now. “
“My vision for the UVA football program is to become the model in college football, the model program in college football. My goal is to contribute to changing the narrative in college football and demonstrate that you can win at the highest level and you can do so while achieving excellence in education, leadership and service.”
Goals for the football program
As for the goals of the UVA football program that Elliott has along with the expectations that he has for himself as a coach, Elliott emphasized his commitment to his players and to developing young men along with tangible results on the field.
“I’m extremely passionate about developing young men through the transferrable life skills that football provides. I’m passionate about winning and winning the right way. Never did I imagine that I would sit here before you today, but the journey was worth it, and I appreciate every day that was invested along the way.”
“The journey ahead is going to be filled with some mountaintop moments and also some moments down in the valley, and I look forward to both, because I know that both are important for growth.”
“I know the business of college football will judge me based on the results on the scoreboard, and I am passionate about producing positive results, but more importantly I know that I’ll ultimately be judged by the positive impact that I make on the lives of the players and the staff that I am so humbled to lead.”
Approach to hiring a staff
In terms of his approach to hiring staff members at UVA, Elliott pointed out that he’s in no particular rush. He’s taking into account current coaches on staff for the ‘Hoos but will take his time in finding the right people for this program.
“I’m going to be very patient and make sure first and foremost that I get the right people. That’s going to be the approach. It’s not about the Xs and the Os to start, it’s about the people, because at the end of the day this program is going to be about developing young men, and in order to develop young men you’ve got to have good people in place to pour into their lives and plant the proper seeds.”
“So I’m going to take my time, and as I told the [current Virginia] staff, they’ll have an opportunity to be evaluated as we go forward. I’m going to get feedback from the players, and I’ve already talked to some, and they’ve given me their impressions of the coaches on the staff. I’m going to continue to meet with Coach Bronco and just get a full understanding of the structure and the challenges and some of the things that he’s faced as I build the staff.”
“But it’s going to start with quality people that align with my vision. I’ve been in conversation with a couple, but I haven’t made those decisions yet because I want to be fair to the staff and I want to take my time and do it right.”
As for how Elliott views recruiting, he identified how it’s critical to establish a culture within the program in order to effectively recruit. From there, he said that he knows just how important in-state recruiting is.
“Right. I think recruiting starts in your own locker room. That’s where we’re going to start. We’re going to build a culture that recruits itself. So we’re going to have an inside-out mentality, meaning that we’re recruiting the person first and the player second. So we’re going to have to do a great job of evaluation and identifying those guys that fit the profile on both ends, from an academic standpoint and an athletic standpoint.”
“We’re going to work. We’re going to make the state a priority. We understand that the Commonwealth has a ton of talent. Now, not every individual will be the profile that we’re looking for, but we’re going to have relationships in the state, and I’m about relationships and recruiting. I know times have changed coming from a situation where we were all over the place, but I still believe that you can have relationships, and at the end of the day that’s what recruiting is to me.”
Thoughts on facilities
As there have been concerns regarding the status of the program’s facilities, Elliott acknowledged that he doesn’t view anything as an excuse but understands there must be a commitment to better facilities.
“First and foremost, we’re not going to make any excuses. We’re going to be appreciative of what we’ve got because in order for you to appreciate and be good stewards of the big things, you’ve got to be good stewards of the little things. So the focus for us is going to be about building the team.”
“Now, in conversation with Carla, I know there’s a commitment to a new facility, but I want to be able to have the culture established before we walk into the new facility because bricks and mortar is nice and the young people want to see bricks and mortar, but we all know that’s not what makes a home, it’s people inside, so we’ve got to establish that first and build, and as we build, then we’ll continue to branch out, but we’re going to take it one step at a time, starting with the foundation, which is the culture, and then the facilities will come and we can take off from there.”
Carla Williams also chimed in on the need for better facilities as she took a realistic approach to the current standards.
“I’ll just add that my staff tells me that I’m brutally honest, and I was with Tony about the facilities, because I think it’s really important to be honest, especially in the beginning. So I was very honest, showed him pictures of our facilities, and then he had a tour of our facilities, and he still chose to come. That was really positive and confirmation for me, as well, that it’s more than just the facilities.”
“We know they’re important. We are going to have the facility here soon. But there’s a lot that goes into building a championship program, a championship culture, and I’m looking forward to getting started on that.”
Relationship with Dabo Swinney
As Elliott played for Swinney at Clemson and coached under him there for over a decade, the bond between the two is significant and Swinney’s opinion carried considerable weight for Elliott in this decision.
“I was asked to come back for my last year, and right after the bowl game, Rick Stockstill leaves to take another job, and we’re sitting in limbo. I was already a graduate, and I was debating whether or not I was going to come back, and then Coach Swinney came along.”
“He didn’t have a reason to believe in me, but I was a former walk-on, wasn’t a scholarship guy, asked to come back. There was some dudes coming back in that room from a receiver standpoint. But he saw something in me, and he believed in me, and he gave me an opportunity.”
“From there, the bond has been strong ever since. He was a mentor — actually the worst advice he gave me was to not get into coaching. He tried to talk me out of it when I was trying to leave the engineering field.”
“But in terms of moving forward, he’s always been in my corner, and he understands who I am. He understands the right fit. He’s been the one that’s helped me to stay patient, to look for the right fit, to make sure that I get into a situation where there is alignment.”
“There are jobs that he would give me his blessing on, and there were jobs that he wouldn’t give me his blessing on, and when I heard him say that he felt like Virginia was the perfect fit for Tony Elliott, then that’s all I needed to hear.”
All in all, Elliot’s first appearance in his new role was a positive one as he appeared cool, calm, and collected while he portrayed an image that is incredibly in line with Virginia and the type of coach that tends to thrive in the school’s athletic department.