USC is firing head football coach Clay Helton after the team's 42-28 loss to Stanford on Saturday.
Athletic director Mike Bohn confirmed the decision on Twitter on Monday:
Associate head coach, cornerbacks coach and defensive pass game coordinator Donte Williams has been promoted to interim head coach.
Helton addressed the decision on social media, saying he was "forever indebted" to the players he coached:
Helton, 49, took over as the team's interim head coach in 2015 for the fired Steve Sarkisian, leading the Trojans to a 5-4 mark the rest of that season. During that campaign the interim tag was removed and Helton was given the full-time job following an extensive coaching search.
That decision has proven questionable. The Trojans have gone 45-24 under Helton since 2015, winning one Pac-12 title under his watch. USC played in the Pac-12 title game last season, losing to Oregon, 31-24. Oregon was only in the game after North Division winner Washington had to abandon the game for COVID-19 reasons.
But the final straw for USC was reportedly Saturday's blowout loss, a disappointing result for a Trojans team loaded with talent that came into the 2021 season with high expectations:
It had become pretty clear that a change was needed at the program. The common refrain from many pundits close to the program was that Helton is a good man, but a bad fit as the head coach:
Matt Leinart @MattLeinartQB
Nothing but respect for Coach Helton but this team has been underachieving for a long time. They need a new energy and culture there, a championship culture. Change is good. It’s time to get that passion back into <a href="https://twitter.com/USC_Athletics?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@USC_Athletics</a> football. Fight On!
Arash Markazi @ArashMarkazi
USC has finally fired Clay Helton. They should have done it in 2019 after Carol Folt was hired as the new president and Mike Bohn was hired as the new AD. It's embarrassing that it took this long and they made the move two games into this season but at least it's over. Finally. <a href="https://t.co/G7QVyx5N0k">https://t.co/G7QVyx5N0k</a>
As for potential replacements, Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports speculated on some names USC could look into when it fires a full-time replacement for Helton after the season:
As USC seeks a return to the days of Pete Carroll's dynasty at the school, getting the next head coach right will be crucial. Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian and Helton have proven to be less-than-inspired hires.