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Helton Out at USC by T.J. Chapman


USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn has fired head football coach Clay Helton, per a release from the USC athletic department. The firing comes two days after a terrible loss at home to Stanford, 42-28. The Trojans were favored by 17.5 points. Cornerbacks coach Donte Williams has been named the interim head coach for the remainder of the season. Helton started at USC as the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in 2010 under Steve Sarkesian. In 2015 USC fired Sarkesian and Helton became the interim head coach, leading the Trojans to a 5-4 record. In 2016 he was hired as the full-time head coach. In his first two seasons were successful, going 21-6 with two New Year’s 6 bowl appearances. However, in 2018 and 2019 USC went 13-15, which started the grumbling from the Trojan faithful. Many wanted Helton fired prior to the 2020 season but then new AD Mike Bohn decided to keep Helton as the head coach. The Trojans went undefeated in the Covid altered 2020 season but fell to Oregon in the Pac 12 Championship game. USC opted out of going to a bowl game after that as they were taking precautions against the Covid pandemic.

Part of the reason for Helton’s fall at USC is his trouble recruiting, which is inexcusable for anyone at USC. There is no reason USC should lose out on many recruiting battles in the talent-rich state of California. Most kids who grow up in California dream of playing for USC. They want to be the next Reggie Bush, Carson Palmer, Troy Polamalu, Junior Seau, Keyshawn Johnson or Matt Leinert. Helton’s recruiting rankings were decent over the years, but the rankings were bolstered by catching a gem here and there. The overall classes weren’t up to USC standards, and neither was the development of those players. The Trojans have had trouble during the Helton era sending high draft picks to the NFL. Over the past three years the Trojans have only had a few players taken in the first three rounds, which are typically the high dollar rounds of the draft. Again, inexcusable at USC.

After the loss in the 2020 Pac 12 Championship game the grumbling to fire Helton intensified, but again, Bohn stuck with Helton. However, after two games this season, a lackluster performance in week 1 against San Jose State and the blowout loss at home in week 2, Bohn decided it was time to start the search for USC’s next head coach. The USC job is one of the top jobs in the country. You have the great high school recruits in California, many of which are a short drive away from USC. The revenue from donations and TV money is there to hire the best assistant coaches and staff. The football facilities are some of the best in the country. The Pac 12 has been down lately and a program like USC should be carrying the torch for the conference, not adding to its ridicule. There is no excuse for USC not to be a top 10 team year in and year out.

A few names to keep an eye on in USC’s coaching search are Luke Fickell of Cincinnati, Matt Campbell at Iowa State and two former coaches, Bob Stoops and Chris Petersen. If I’m in charge I’m going after Petersen. He has a history of winning with West Coast programs Boise State and Washington. Petersen is a very good coach and can right the ship at USC. Of course, there will be whispers (and maybe screams) for Jacksonville Jaguar head coach Urban Meyer. USC alum Reggie Bush worked with Meyer at Fox on their Big Noon Kickoff pre-game show and publicly lobbied for Helton to be fired and Meyer to be hired at the end of the 2020 season. In my opinion, stay away from Meyer. He’s a good college football coach but he has a history of leaving not long after building the program up. His longest tenured job was seven years at Ohio State. USC needs someone to come in and stabilize the program, someone who is in it for the long haul, and I don’t think that’s Meyer. In my opinion USC would do better with Petersen leading the Trojans back to the top of the Pac 12 and the college football world. But whoever it is USC hires to succeed Helton they will be taking over a program that is built to win. With all of the resources available it’s difficult to lose at USC, just don’t tell Clay Helton that


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