Clay Helton has been retained as head coach of USC football after leading the Trojans to a 5-2 record as an interim.
USC football has a new head coach, one who has already held the title twice before. Clay Helton, who led the Trojans to a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl as an interim in 2013 then took on the mantle once more in 2015, has been officially announced as the permanent head coach in Troy.
“After weeks of searching the collegiate and pro ranks, interviewing candidates, and speaking with head coaches, athletic directors, NFL executives, and very knowledgeable football people, and after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searching for in a coach was right here in front of us,” athletic director Pat Haden said in a press release Monday morning.
Helton, who was brought to USC by Lane Kiffin in 2010 as a quarterbacks coach, took over head coaching duties from Steve Sarkisian in October after the second-year coach was removed from his post following a series of concerning incidents linked to alcohol.
In the first game of his second stint as interim, Helton’s Trojans challenged Notre Dame in South Bend but could not overcome a late flurry from the Irish which saw the contest end in a 41-31 loss. As a result, USC slipped to 3-3 on the season but by then talk had already begun about Helton’s prospects as a candidate for the full-time job.
The Trojans returned home to take on undefeated and highly-ranked Utah. When they rode freshman linebacker Cameron Smith’s three interceptions to a blow out victory, belief in Helton’s chances grew.
Victories over Cal, Arizona and Colorado in successive weeks fueled hopes of a run at the Pac-12 South title. All the while an active campaign by USC players on social media birthed the hashtag #Helton2016 as calls for the interim to be hired permanently grew.
More from Reign of Troy
- Markese Stepp enters transfer portal intending to leave USC football
- USC football’s Alijah Vera-Tucker declares for NFL Draft
- USC football adds Xavion Alford as transfer from Texas
- USC Podcast: RoT Radio Ep. 396 on the Football Season’s Fallout
- Talanoa Hufanga named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, USC football with five first-teamers
Helton’s prospects took a hit when the Trojans were pummeled by Oregon in Eugene, but redemption followed at the Coliseum when USC faced rival UCLA. In a winner-take-all contest for the Pac-12 South on Senior Day, the men of Troy exorcised demons from three-straight rivalry game losses by beating the Bruins 40-21.
Comparisons to the 2013 run by interim head coach Ed Orgeron were unavoidable during Helton’s eerily similar campaign in 2015. Both lost to Notre Dame then engineered a four-game winning streak, including a victory over a top five team at the Coliseum, while preaching the importance of the Trojan Family and enjoying the vocal support of players.
Ultimately the two storybook tales followed different paths thanks to UCLA. Orgeron lost to Jim Mora and was passed over for the job. Helton handed Mora his first loss to the Trojans and was handed the reins in Troy as a result.
Do you approve of USC hiring Clay Helton as head coach?