Coach Tony Elliott was already excited about breaking records and creating firsts before even stepping on the field as Virginia’s coach.
“I believe this is the first outdoor press conference, right?” Elliott said as he took in the scene of his opening press conference as Virginia’s football coach, which gave both fans and players a deeper understanding of how he intends to run the Cavalier program.
From the start of the press conference, it was clear that the relationships Elliott had formed with those at Virginia had a great impact on his decision to come to Charlottesville. Before he even spoke, Athletic Director Carla Williams gushed about the opportunity to have Elliott in the program.
“This is a pivotal moment for our football program,” Williams said. “We are honored to have Tony Elliott as our leader.”
Elliott echoed those feelings in his opening statement.
“There is no better place for me than U.Va.,” Elliott said. “And there is no better time than now.”
Later in the press conference, the former Clemson offensive coordinator mentioned how the Tigers’ Coach Dabo Swinney backed up the fact that Virginia would be the place for him.
“He understands who I am, and he understands the right fit,” Elliott said. “When I heard him say that he felt Virginia was the perfect fit, then that’s all I needed to hear.”
Finally, Elliott mentioned the importance of having the right people in recruiting.
“Recruiting starts in your own locker room,” Elliott said, making sure to emphasize that every current player on Virginia’s roster will get the chance to be part of the new Cavalier culture. “I’m about relationships in recruiting.”
Throughout his opening statement and the press conference as a whole, it was clear that Elliott wanted to continue the culture of relationships that former Coach Bronco Mendenhall had already established. It was exciting to hear all the plans the new head coach had for making Virginia football the best it could possibly be without sacrificing its values, which makes Elliott a fantastic fit within Virginia athletics.
He later confirmed this fact when talking about why he chose Virginia.
“I chose U.Va. because I wanted to lead a program that was partnered with the university that had world-class academics,” Elliott said. “I wanted to be able to recruit the best and the brightest student athletes.”
In an environment where making sure Virginia student athletes fit the school just as well as their respective sports, Elliott seemed to understand how much of a priority it was to make getting the right type of players in his program.
Lastly, Elliott emphasized the importance of patience throughout his answers to questions. He recognized the time it will take to build the new culture he wants so badly to create. Although he mentioned that he would not be announcing his new staff until after the bowl game out of respect for those still coaching Virginia, he did mention the importance of making the right decisions.
“I’m going to be very patient, and make sure first and foremost that I get the right people,” Elliott said. “I want to take my time and do it right.”
In many ways, Elliott mirrors some of the same values that Mendenhall had. He talked greatly of his own spirituality and mentioned that his conversations with the former head coach had pushed him to better himself in preparation of taking over the program. Overall, the hire of Elliott seems to become more and more like a great fit for Virginia athletics every day, and Williams did a fantastic job with the coaching search, especially on such short notice and at an awkward time.
Of course, talking about the big picture and what kind of culture Elliott can bring to the Cavaliers is exciting, but at the end of the day, fans only have one question — how can Virginia win football games? And to that end, the new head coach at Virginia gave a short, yet perfect answer.
“I want to score, and I want to stop people,” Elliot said.
There isn’t much more Virginia could ask of its coach than that.