It lastly occurred.
Almost six years after his surprising appointment as the top coach at USC, Clay Helton’s tenure in Los Angeles is over. Athletic director Mike Bohn’s choice to chop bait Monday simply two video games into the 2021 season is an acknowledgment of what most individuals who watch the Trojans have understood for years: Helton was by no means going to revive USC as a constant nationwide energy.
It is as obvious because it was on Monday because it was in 2018 when Helton coached the Trojans to their first shedding season since 2000, however the actuality is the job was all the time too huge. Had it not been for Steve Sarkisian’s early-season dismissal in 2015, Helton by no means would have acquired the chance to steer a program anyplace close to USC’s caliber. His teaching résumé would not have allowed it.
On the time, nonetheless, Helton was the grownup within the room, and that is what USC wanted to navigate the remainder of that tumultuous 12 months with out additional off-field embarrassment. As an interim coach, he made sense and he did about in addition to he may have, profitable 5 of seven video games earlier than Pat Haden eliminated the interim tag and made him the everlasting coach. Haden’s choice was baffling within the sense that he did not make a critical try to fill the job with an exterior candidate, and it predated his personal resignation announcement by solely two months.
It is easy to say Haden should not have been the one to make the rent, if not for the ineptitude of his alternative, Lynn Swann.
To know Helton’s tenure, it is essential to know the way well-liked he was by these round him. The checklist of people that do not respect his soccer acumen is lengthy, however as an individual? It is almost not possible to search out somebody who has interacted with him who has one thing unhealthy to say.
Whether or not that ought to issue right into a coach’s job safety is definitely debatable, however that — and a few fortuitous timing — is the first cause why he lasted so lengthy.
If Helton by no means had any success, his nice-guy persona would not have actually mattered, however he did. USC gained the Rose Bowl in his first season because the everlasting head coach and completed ranked No. 3 within the AP ballot. The Trojans gained the Pac-12 the following 12 months. That sort of early success would purchase any coach a while, even when it did masks lopsided losses to Alabama (52-6), Stanford (27-10), Notre Dame (49-14) and Ohio State (24-7) throughout these two years.
Helton’s third 12 months in cost was an absolute catastrophe. To go 5-7 at USC whereas the Pac-12 was in a collective downturn was a fireable offense, however Swann did not have the ruthlessness it could have taken to fireside a coach a 12 months after he gained the convention.
Keyshawn Johnson explains why USC shedding recruits to out-of-state packages was a big cause why this system parted methods with coach Clay Helton.
Swann felt obligated to subject an announcement defending Helton’s retention and prolonged his contract two months later, saying Helton “has proven that he can lead our workforce with integrity and stability and that he has the power to win convention and nationwide championships.”
The next September, Swann adopted Haden out the door, and it wasn’t till November 2019, with one recreation left within the common season, that Bohn was employed. Once more, Bohn would have been justified to make a change — it definitely would have ingratiated himself with the varsity’s proud fan base — however there was apprehension about dashing right into a course of that he wanted to get proper.
In the end, Bohn wished extra time to judge what he was inheriting, so when it got here to creating a change, he was higher geared up to search out the correct coach.
Then got here the pandemic. Nothing in regards to the 2020 season, particularly within the Pac-12 and Los Angeles, was something near regular, so it makes little sense to put a lot worth on what occurred on the sector. He wasn’t going to be fired after going 5-1 with that loss within the convention title recreation, which brings us right here.
In firing Helton after simply two video games, Bohn delivered an announcement that USC followers have lengthy been ready for. Mediocre is not ok. Blowout losses at house will not be tolerated. As quickly as Stanford‘s lead was insurmountable, it ensured Helton’s job standing can be the first matter of debate for the remainder of the season. Until, in fact, Helton was let go.
The timing helps on two fronts: First, it’s going to enable USC followers to really feel optimistic once more. Savior hypothesis might be enjoyable. Second, it offers Bohn — who undoubtedly has had candidates in thoughts since he arrived — time to go in regards to the search in a methodical vogue.
Regardless of the relative lack of success since Pete Carroll’s departure, USC stays a spot the place profitable huge must be the expectation. It checks all of the packing containers which have all the time been essential to compete for nationwide championships and now, with the introduction of title, picture and likeness guidelines, is even higher positioned to draw the very best expertise within the nation.