The 2021 Tennessee head coaching search didn’t have the drama of the 2017 version, but we’ve got a little spice a couple of years later. If you’ll remember, that search seemed to begin with then Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott. The common narrative coming out of that interest and interview was that Elliott turned Tennessee down.
Elliott, now the head coach of Virginia, was asked about that situation on Monday. His Cavaliers take on Tennessee on September 2nd in Nashville to open the season.
Elliott stuck with his story when asked about the situation on Monday.
“First of all, obviously, Tennessee is, in my opinion, one of the Blue Bloods,” said Elliott. “One of the top tier programs in the country. When I evaluated it, there were a lot of positive things about it. It just wasn’t the right time for me. So when it came down to it, I prayed about it and said I want the Lord to lead me in the direction that He’d have me to go. So, it was close. But at the end of the day, when I looked at the totality of everything, it just wasn’t the right time and the right fit for me. I’m happy for Heupel. Excited for him and what he’s doing there. Obviously, an extremely passionate fan base. All the resources that you need to be a top tier program.”
“I’m excited about our matchup, when we play them, to kind of see where we are as a program,” added Elliott. “I think you have to play games like this to get a barometer and to gauge where we’re at. It either tells us, okay, we’re ahead of where we need to be or you know what, we still got a good significant amount of work to do. But I’m excited about the opportunity to play these guys. It was close, but at the end of the day, it just wasn’t the right timing for me.”
Tennessee was looking at 30+ transfer portal entries and potential NCAA sanctions stemming from Jeremy Pruitt’s recruiting violations. Rebuild might not even fully describe the challenge that was ahead, so it’s understandable why someone would turn down the job.
However, according to Tennessee AD Danny White, he never offered Elliott the job. White concedes that Elliott was interviewed for the job, but that he was never offered. He also mentions that he’s ignored these claims in the past, but wanted to set the record straight today.
Interesting… don’t remember offering. Ignored this the first time, can’t do it again. An interview doesn’t constitute an offer. Interviewed several candidates, offered 1. https://t.co/eFAxNHZlx3— Danny White (@AD_DannyWhite) August 22, 2023
So there’s a minor storyline for you for the opener in Nashville in 12 days.
Elliott stuck with Clemson for another year after interviewing for the Tennessee job. He then took the Virginia job after Bronco Mendenhall abruptly retired. Elliott’s year one team went just 3-7. He now gets Tennessee to open the year, drawing a tough opening matchup against Josh Heupel’s program which appears to be operating now at full song.
Tennessee is a 28 point favorite over Virginia, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Kickoff is set for noon ET on ABC.