The ball would seem to be back in Tony Elliott’s court after Tennessee AD Danny White threw a nasty verbal smackdown at Elliott over whether or not White offered Elliott the UT football job in 2021.
Elliott, no doubt, has better things to do, but then, here we are.
How this latest bit of silliness in the form of sports news got started is that White, for reasons known only to him, decided to take to Twitter on Monday to say, no, in fact, he didn’t.
“Interesting… don’t remember offering,” the AD said, quote-tweeting a headline from a UT sports blog about Elliott’s comments.
“Ignored this the first time, can’t do it again,” White said. “An interview doesn’t constitute an offer. Interviewed several candidates, offered 1.”
The backstory to this is that the notion that Elliott turned down the job has been making the rounds for a couple of years, and nobody involved – not Elliott, not White – had ever done anything to correct the record, if it indeed needed correcting, until White’s perhaps ill-advised, and certainly ungentlemanly, tweet Monday night.
To be fair to Elliott, it’s not like he’s gone out trumpeting far and wide the idea that he was offered and turned down the UT job.
The way it even came up this week was, a reporter asked Elliott after practice on Monday about the job in the context of the teams’ upcoming season opener in Nashville.
This is the kind of things good reporters do: find an angle worth writing about, then asking one of the principals to weigh in.
Which is what Elliott did.
He started and ended his answer with praise for the Tennessee program.
Literally the first words out of his mouth in response to the question were: “Tennessee is, in my opinion, one of the one of the blue bloods, you know, one of the top tier programs in the country.”
And the last: “Obviously an extremely passionate fan base, has all the resources that you need to be a top tier program, so I’m excited about our matchup, you know, when we play them to kind of see where we are as a program. I think you have to play games like this to get a barometer to gauge, you know, where we’re at. It either tells us, OK, we’re ahead of where we need to be, or, you know, we still got a good significant amount of work to do. I’m excited about the opportunity to play these guys.”
At the very least, we know that Elliott interviewed with White for the job, and whether he turned it down or just didn’t get offered, it would seem like it worked out the way it needed to for him that he doesn’t have to work under a guy with an itchy Twitter finger.
He dodged that bullet, and dodged having to work at a school that had just gotten caught cheating by the NCAA, which made Tennessee vacate 11 wins in 2019 and 2020.
The pathetic thing about where UT football was at the time Elliott interviewed with White: all the school had to show for the cheating was one 8-5 season, in between 5-7 and 3-7 seasons.
So, what really happened? Thinking through how things had to have gone down between Elliott and White, the best bet is that Elliott aced the interview, left White either with what he thought was a formal offer, or close to it, then looked at the dumpster fire that he’d be inheriting and decided, nah, not for me.
UT fans, to be fair here, could look at the results they’ve seen with the guy who ended up getting the job, Josh Heupel, and say, hey, it all worked out for us.
Heupel went 7-6 in Year 1 and had the Vols 11-2 and on the fringe of the national-title race in Year 2, last fall.
Meanwhile, Elliott stumbled to a 3-7 record in his first year at Virginia in 2022, and the prospects for 2023 aren’t looking all that great – the media at the 2023 ACC Football Kickoff picked Virginia to finish in last place in the 14-team league this fall.
The results being what they are, it would still be hard to come down on Elliott for not wanting to be a part of the if you’re not cheatin’, you’re not tryin’ culture in the SEC.
Elliott is a good guy, a better guy than this Danny White guy.
And because he’s a good guy, Tony Elliott won’t be volleying back at Danny White over the job that he was offered and turned down.
There are far more important things to do than respond to drunk tweets.