Considering Itself Outside the Title Picture, U.S.C. Fires Clay Helton

With the University of Southern California’s protection being gashed, its offense stagnant and its self-discipline missing — the kicker was ejected on the opening kickoff — followers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum showered the crew with boos throughout a 42-28 thumping at the fingers of Stanford, which entered Saturday’s sport as a 17-point underdog.

Afterward, Clay Helton, the seventh-year coach, pleaded for calm.

“At the end of the season, see where we’re at,” he informed reporters.

Wherever the Trojans are at the finish of the season, Helton received’t be round to see it. He was fired Monday amid growing fury from the faculty’s alumni and former gamers for whom Saturday wasn’t only a unhealthy sport, however one other affirmation that the soccer program would by no means turn into a contender for a nationwide title below Helton.

In truth, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, in saying a nationwide seek for a brand new coach, mentioned in a press release that the Trojans can be higher off for the the rest of the season with Donte Williams, a 39-year-old cornerbacks coach who has by no means even served as a coordinator, as the interim head coach.

This decision, though, might have been made far earlier but for the whopping six-year contract extension Helton was awarded by Swann before the 2018 season — one that is expected to have paid him close to $5 million this season and runs for two more years.

The Trojans, who were carried to the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl by quarterback Sam Darnold in Helton’s first two full seasons, have gone 19-14 since Helton signed the new contract. In last year’s pandemic-shortened season, the Trojans won their five conference games, but their hopes of sneaking into the College Football Playoff vanished when they were upset on their home field by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game.

Helton never gained a foothold with U.S.C. fans, who were befuddled that the former athletic director Pat Haden — who like his successor Swann had been a star football player at the school — promoted Helton to interim coach after firing Sarkisian, and then gave him the permanent job. Haden had previously passed on another interim coach, choosing to not retain Ed Orgeron, who two years ago coached Louisiana State to a national championship.

Helton’s coaching staff was a revolving door, and each August he seemed to promise a more disciplined team. But even a rousing comeback victory over the conference rival U.C.L.A. last year was marred by Trojans taunting their rivals when the game ended — Helton falling to the turf trying to pull his players away.

The scene was a picture of a coach who did not have control of his team.

The cost of firing Helton will be considerable, presumably in the neighborhood of $15 million (the terms of his contract are not public because U.S.C. is a private school). But with a $315 million renovation of the Coliseum to be paid for in part through ticket sales, a considerable financial hit from the pandemic and declining attendance, there was also a cost to doing nothing.

On Monday, U.S.C. decided it was too much to bear.

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