The USC Trojans dramatically underachieved under Clay Helton this season after starting the year in AP Top-25 and many people wanted him to be fired.
After a disastrous 5-7 year, USC Trojans football coach Clay Helton looked like a prime candidate to be fired. Until Monday, when USC Trojans athletic director Lynn Swann signaled that Helton would have a reprieve and continue on as coach.
The only people happier than Clay Helton’s family are probably UCLA Bruin fans knowing that Helton will be back. As for Trojans fans, they probably already had moving trucks ready to say goodbye to Helton.
Swann would have been justified if he had decided to look someplace else. Under Helton the Trojans are 32-16, including a Rose Bowl win in 2017. But since the Rose Bowl win, the Trojans are just 16-10. This past season, USC lost to all three of their California rivals for the first time since 1996 and had their worst record since 2000.
Swann realizes there needs to be a change but feels Helton can implement the changes, stating:
"“We acknowledge and understand our deficiencies in areas that include culture, discipline, schemes, personnel and staff,” he wrote. “We agree that changes need to be made … Coach Helton has a plan in place to get USC back to the top.”"
The reality is Swann probably has no choice but to keep Helton for three really good reasons.
Currently, Swann doesn’t have a boss, USC’s president resigned before the season started due to a sexual abuse scandal. Since the resignation, the position has yet to be filled, Swann may feel he can’t make a big decision without permission.
As fun as Trojans fans might think it would be to fire Helton, they have to realize that Helton was in the second year of a five year contract. Trojans fans better pony up to cover Helton’s buy out, likely Swann doesn’t want to deal with that sum of money.
Finally, if you get rid of Helton, who do the Trojans bring in.? The most common names being bandied about are former Trojans Jack Del Rio and Jeff Fisher. Are Trojans fans really going to want to replace Helton with two NFL outcasts?
Reality has to set in for Trojans fans. The program experienced a down year and without a university president, Lynn Swann had to bring Helton back. Despite what happens next season, there is a good chance Helton’s status will be revisited again.