Conflicting Reports Surround Clay Helton's Status as USC Head Coach

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2019

PALO ALTO, CA - SEPTEMBER 08:  Head coach Clay Helton of the USC Trojans looks on while his team warm up during pregame warm ups prior to their NCAA football game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Clay Helton's status as USC head football coach is up in the air, with conflicting reports surrounding his future.

Adam Maya of Sports Illustrated reported Sunday that Helton would be fired, with the school targeting Urban Meyer as his potential replacement. However, Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated spoke to multiple sources, who said "no decision has been made and it is still possible—maybe even likely—that Helton keeps his job."

Pete Thamel of Yahoo Sports later added that "USC people are rightfully steamed" in the wake of Maya's report. 

The Trojans are 8-4 after entering the 2019 campaign unranked. During his tenure as USC's head coach, Helton has posted a record of 40-21 overall.

Helton's job appeared to be in jeopardy early in the 2016 season after starting 1-3, but the Trojans went 9-0 down the stretch, including a dramatic 52-49 win over Penn State in the Rose Bowl. He followed that up with an 11-3 mark in 2017, but USC fell to 5-7 last season.

Helton became USC's quarterbacks coach in 2010 and took on the role of offensive coordinator in 2013. He served as a head coach in an interim role for one game in 2013 before doing so again in 2015 after Steve Sarkisian's leave of absence and ultimate dismissal.

The 47-year-old Auburn and Houston alum went 5-4 in 2015, including a loss in the Holiday Bowl. Helton was still able to secure the full-time head-coaching job, but he has yet to get USC back to elite status.

USC was a perennial power under Pete Carroll, winning at least 11 games every year from 2002 through 2008 with the exception of vacated victories in 2005 due to an NCAA ruling.

The Trojans have just four 10-win campaigns to their credit since 2009. Since Carroll left at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign, the Trojans have fired Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian and not retained Ed Orgeron after he had a 6-2 stint as the interim head coach. 

The Pac-12 has become the domain of teams such as Washington, Stanford and Oregon, and there is now an immense amount of pressure on USC's decision-makers to right the ship and get the program back on track, whether that's with Helton or a new hire.