Clay Helton’s unlikely tenure because the head coach at Southern California began bizarrely and lasted far longer than almost anybody expected.
The folksy Southerner won a Rose Bowl and a Pac-12 title early , but he never won over most of the Trojans’ fans.
And after another embarrassing defeat for a faculty only curious about championships, USC finally moved on.
Helton was fired on Monday, two games into his seventh season responsible . Athletic director Mike Bohn made the move two days after a 42-28 home loss to Stanford that sent the Trojans plummeting out of the AP Top 25.
Donte Williams, the Trojans’ cornerbacks coach and associate head coach, is taking up . Williams, a Los Angeles-area native and therefore the first Black head coach in USC football history, joined the program in 2020 and has played a serious role within the Trojans’ significant recruiting advancements over the past two cycles.
USC (1-1, 0-1 Pac-12) visits Washington State this weekend for its road opener.
Helton went 46-24 during his improbable seven years responsible of a longtime West Coast college football powerhouse with 11 national championships. The career assistant coach twice took over as USC’s interim coach before permanently getting his first head coaching late within the 2015 season.
“Clay is one among the best citizenry I even have met during this industry, and he has been an incredible model and mentor to our young men,” Bohn said during a statement. “We appreciate his a few years of service to our university and need him nothing but the absolute best .”
While Helton brought stability to a tumultuous football culture and ran a clean program that inspired loyalty and love from his players, he never won over a big portion of the Trojans’ vast fan base, even during his early success. His genteel manner didn’t inspire confidence in fans wont to Pete Carroll’s intensity, while Helton’s Texas twang and aw-shucks demeanor often seemed out of place in l. a. .
Almost nobody doubted Helton genuinely loved USC and cared about his many players, but the Trojans simply didn’t win frequently enough to satisfy the expectations at a program synonymous successfully .
“Really disappointed for that regime, because that affects tons of individuals ,” Carroll said in Seattle. “It’s not only one guy. His whole staff gets affected. … and therefore the families that were relying on their kids playing for them, all of that. It’s a really difficult decision to form , and they’re making the choice for what they feel is that the right reasons.”
The Trojans won the Rose Bowl after the 2016 season and therefore the Pac-12 title in 2017 while Sam Darnold was their quarterback, but the remainder of Helton’s tenure was disappointing — and for several fans, even USC’s three-loss seasons in 2016 and 2017 weren’t ok .
Helton was 19-14 since the 2017 season, and he repeatedly avoided vocal involves his dismissal from fans and boosters during that stretch. After Bohn replaced Lynn Swann as USC’s athletic director in November 2019, the school’s aspirations for national title contention ramped up again with major infrastructure additions to all or any areas of the football program.
“The added resources carried significantly increased expectations for our team’s performance,” Bohn said. “It is already evident that, despite the enhancements, those expectations wouldn’t be met without a change in leadership.”
USC seemed to be in position to form a robust run at the Pac-12 title this season with offensive coordinator Graham Harrell and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando returning to steer a roster stacked with talent — on the other hand the Trojans were humiliated on national television by Stanford.
“I know I got beat by Stanford a few of times, too,” Carroll said. “It’s hard. And like (former USC coach) John McKay always said, far and away the toughest matchup we ever had was with Stanford, and it carries tons of weight. So unfortunately, that they had to form change. Clay may be a good man, good ball coach, and he’ll bounce right back, but it’s a troublesome decision for the Trojan family on today .”
USC committed 109 yards in penalties, fell behind by 29 points and got shredded defensively by the Cardinal, who scored only seven points in their season opener. Thousands of fans left the Coliseum early within the last half , and lots of of the remaining supporters chanted “Fire Helton!” within the fourth quarter.
“I know our fans will support our players,” Helton said immediately after the sport . “Our fans love this university, and that they love these players, and we’ll do our job. We’ll come out and we’ll still get wins and add ’em up and see where we are at the top of the season. i do know it’ll be a successful season at the top .”
Bohn’s decision means one among the foremost visible and most powerful jobs in college football is open just three weeks into the new season, and therefore the AD said he’s launching his search immediately.
USC fans have spent years calling for the Trojans to chase three-time national championship coach Urban Meyer, who is merely one game into his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Bohn hired successful Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell once they were both with the Bearcats, while many USC fans admire and covet Iowa State’s Matt Campbell. Chris Petersen, a California native who built excellent programs at Boise State and Washington before citing stress for his decision to go away the Huskies two years ago, is currently working for Fox Sports.
Bohn has been on the work for fewer than two years, but he already features a diary on hiring for major jobs which will inspire optimism for Trojans football fans: Four months ago, he persuaded Lindsay Gottlieb to go away the NBA to require charge of the Trojans’ underachieving program albeit the successful, decorated former California coach wasn’t initially seeking another job.
Helton’s firing brings an end to at least one of the foremost surprising coaching tenures at a premier football program in recent NCAA history.
Helton had been at USC since 2010, when Lane Kiffin hired the previous college quarterback as his QBs coach. Helton became the Trojans’ offensive coordinator under both Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian before assuming the top job when Sarkisian was suspended and ultimately fired for alcohol-related misbehavior.
Helton also served because the Trojans’ interim head coach for a victory within the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl when interim coach Ed Orgeron resigned after the full-time job visited Sarkisian rather than Orgeron.
Swann gave a lucrative extension to Helton in 2018 over the objections of the many fans. Helton was under contract until 2023.
Helton’s continued employment put a perpetual cloud over the USC program in recent years, with rivals using his tenuous status against the Trojans in recruiting. The coach navigated this treacherous terrain with a smile and consistent optimism, never failing to precise his gratitude and appreciation for his position within the sport.
“I love USC, because you recognize what the quality is? Championships,” Helton said earlier this summer. “You are often at USC and win every game but one, and if it’s the last one, it’s checked out as a nasty season. That’s being at a special place. you’ll have an undefeated regular season and win the Pac-12 championship, and everybody is gloomy . That’s a special place to be.”