NEW ORLEANS — Tony Elliott and Jeff Scott met as teenage Clemson wide receivers. Paired off in pregame warmups, they helped each other stretch before the Gator Bowl back in 2001.
Elliott, 40, and Scott, 39, spent much of Sunday paired together again. Huddled in a Hilton Riverside suite with fellow Clemson assistant coaches, they ignored the fog above the Mississippi River outside while looking for a clear path to victory over LSU on Monday night in the College Football Playoff national championship game at the Superdome.
It’s the last ride for Elliott and Scott as Clemson co-offensive coordinators.
Scott has pulled double-duty the last month as South Florida head coach.
Elliott gets a title all to himself starting Tuesday morning.
What a run.
• Five ACC championships
• Five College Football Playoff appearances
• Four national title games
• Two national championships
It’s nothing less than one of the great assistant coach tandems in recent college football history, greatness lost in the shadow of head coach Dabo Swinney and Clemson stars.
Elliott and Scott have beaten famous, national championship-winning, defensive-minded head coaches Nick Saban (twice) and Bob Stoops (twice) in postseason games.
“Bittersweet,” said Elliott, a James Island High School graduate. “There’s been a lot of joy.”
And to think there were two schools of observer thought as Elliott and Scott were promoted to take over for Chad Morris when the guru offensive coordinator left Clemson to become head coach at SMU following the 2014 regular season:
• It won’t work
• It’s a risky pairing that might work
“They didn’t understand the relationship we had,” Elliott said, “the love that we have for Clemson, the love that we have for Coach Swinney.”
No egos allowed
Scott’s wife Sara and Elliott’s wife Tamika are best friends, too. Scott’s daughter Savannah and Elliott’s sons A.J. and Ace have grown up together.
Elliott flew to Tampa to attend Scott’s introductory press conference at USF.
But if mere friendship always translated to on-field success, college football management types would have started tapping into the buddy system years ago.
These two guys are exceptionally sharp: Elliott earned a degree in industrial engineering and worked for a while in private business; Scott soaked up all he could from his father, former South Carolina head coach Brad Scott, in his 21st season on the Clemson football payroll.
They also have a keen understanding of roles.
No egos allowed.
“We knew we were tied to each other’s aspirations,” Elliott added.
‘A beautiful thing’
Jeff Scott has been busy in New Orleans preparing for LSU’s powerhouse, but he gets that this is a series of last, special moments.
“It’s hard to believe it’s gone by this fast,” Scott said of Clemson’s co-coordinator concept. “It’s been absolutely incredible. I definitely have enjoyed my entire time with Tony. Both of us, wherever our careers take us, will hold dear the time we’ve had at our alma mater, the success we’ve had together and as a team.”
New roles start Tuesday.
The Scotts will leave for Tampa, with Brad Scott serving in an official support role to the rookie head coach.
Elliott won’t be a co-coordinator anymore (though quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter gets bumped up to “passing game coordinator”).
But not before one more ballgame.
“I’m not sure their situation would have worked everywhere; sometimes personal motives get in the way,” Brad Scott said. “But Jeff and Tony are so happy for each other’s success. It’s a beautiful thing to watch.”
Unless, of course, you were on the losing side of that 70-4 record.
Follow Gene Sapakoff on Twitter @sapakoff.