Following an up and down season that saw the temperature of his hot seat enflame and cool down seemingly every other week, Clay Helton has been retained at USC. The Trojans have decided to keep their embattled fourth-year coach with the goal of him remaining there long-term.
Athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed USC’s decision in a tweet on Wednesday evening. “I am pleased to let you know Coach Helton will continue to be our head coach,” he wrote. “His commitment to our student-athletes and to leading with integrity is vital to restoring our championship program, which is the goal for all of our teams. Heading into 2020, Coach Helton and I will work together to take a hard look at all aspects of the football enterprise and will make the tough decisions necessary to compete at a championship level.”
Helton led USC to an 8-4 (7-2 Pac-12) record and spot at the bottom of the College Football Playoff Rankings in 2019 despite losing two starting quarterbacks to season-ending injuries and suffering a number of other personnel issues. The Trojans started 3-3 but finished 5-1. Helton’s greatest success thus far at USC was going 21-6 from 2016-17 with two New Year’s Six bowl appearances.
But after missing a bowl game at 5-7 in 2018, Helton’s mark the last two seasons at USC is now 13-11 (11-7 Pac-12). Overall, he has led USC to a 39-21 (31-12 Pac-12) record in his four-plus seasons as coach, including a nine-game interim stint in 2015. As the team’s official coach from 2015-19, Helton has gone 34-17 (26-10 Pac-12).
“I appreciate the support from President [Carol] Folt and Mike Bohn. It is abundantly clear that we now have the support, resources and tools to build a championship team,” Helton said. “We know the expectations of our fans are high, as they should be. Those are the same expectations I have for myself and that our staff and team have as well. Our future is bright. We have a young team on the verge of doing something special. We have seen what this team can do, having the season we have had despite going through adversity and injuries. We are headed to a great bowl and we plan to finish the season strong. And we are putting the final touches on an outstanding recruiting class. I believe in our team and in our fan base. I know we will all come together to succeed. I am excited about the future”
USC recently changed the top of its administration, hiring a new school president and new athletic director in Bohn. After the Trojans beat in-state rival UCLA last week, it was reported that Bohn was seriously considering retaining Helton, perhaps holding out hope that USC could reach the Pac-12 Championship Game.
With two weeks until the start of the early signing period, an important recruiting time for college football team, the Trojans had to make a decision about the program’s immediate future. There were long-standing rumors that USC at one point eyed Urban Meyer as a replacement for Helton, but it is unknown whether such conversations took place as new school president Folt had been vocally against considering Meyer as an option should a change be made.
Helton, who has four years remaining on his contract, may make some changes to his coaching staff. An internal letter obtained by Yahoo Sports reportedly “hints at potential staff changes” that would be “inevitable,” though most likely not on the offensive side of the ball.