South Carolina's Elliott says downsizing was for family reasons, not changes in college football


COLUMBIA - Newly hired South Carolina assistant Shawn Elliott did not leave his job as Georgia State's head coach because of challenges with NIL, retaining players or other changes in college football.

His reasons were a lot closer to home. For all of his seven seasons with the Panthers, Elliott maintained his family home in Columbia and frequently commuted the 220 miles each way to Atlanta.

"The most important people in my life live in the state of South Carolina and the Columbia area," Elliott said Tuesday.

Elliott's departure came earlier this month after the team already had begun spring practice. It followed higher profile head coach departures - Chip Kelly leaving as UCLA coach to become Ohio State's offensive coordinator and Jeff Hafley quitting at Boston College to become the Green Bay Packers' defensive coordinator - and he appeared to be the latest to throw up his hands amid the changing game.

Not the case, Elliott said. Yes, the the lure of name, image and likeness money from Power Five schools did take a toll on the program, with 22 of his players leaving for bigger schools the past two years.

But that didn't drive him from the Sun Belt Conference program.

"I've never personally run from a problem," he said. "I've always found a solution in how to fix it."

Elliott certainly did that at Georgia State, which has played in the Football Bowl Subdivision only since 2013. He led the Panthers to their first winning season in the FBS and went 4-1 in bowl games during his time there.

But as the mileage piled up - Elliott said he has put some 110,000 miles on a truck he bought in 2020 - Elliott said being away from wife Summer, daughter Maddyn and son Max was harder to do.

It was the right decision in 2017 for Elliott to leave his job as South Carolina offensive line coach for Georgia State. "It was what I needed to do for my career at that point in time," said Elliott, 50.

This too, he said, was the right move.

Elliott said he reached out to South Carolina after tight ends coach Justin Stepp left to become wide receivers coach at Illinois to make sure the school knew of his interest. A couple of phone calls with Gamecocks coach Shane Beamer was all it took.

Elliott received a three-year contract worth $2.275 million. He coached the offensive line at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier from 2010-15, was interim head coach after Spurrier's midseason resignation in 2015 and stayed on the staff with Will Muschamp in 2016 before moving to Georgia State.

Elliott acknowledged the difficult timing of his departure. But he said his discussions with school leaders and Georgia State players were candid and cordial. "There wasn't another way I could've done it," he said.

Beamer, who worked with Elliott in 2010 on Spurrier's staff, was eager to bring Elliott back. "I always try to make our program better," Beamer said. "He makes our program better."

South Carolina special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who won two Super Bowls over 32 years as an NFL assistant, said he thinks college is more pure than the pros. College teams aren't tanking for better draft picks like you might see in the NFL, he said.

"That's what it's all about, in my opinion, is winning," he said.

For Elliott, it is about the chance to not have to speed off moments after his daughter's cheerleading competition or his son's football game. He imagines the three someday performing at Williams-Brice Stadium, dad leading the tight ends, daughter part of the college cheer squad and son as a player.

That, Elliott said, would be "a dream come true."