USC Football: Hiring Clay Helton Rights Wrongs From 2013


USC’s hiring of Clay Helton will right the wrong in not hiring Ed Orgeron back in 2013.

It wasn’t so long ago that USC had an interim coach that set LA on fire. Then Pat Haden told him his services would no longer be needed. His name is Ed Orgeron. He took the Trojans from 2-2 to 8-4 with a victory over Stanford being the giant feather in his cap. The fans loved him. The students loved him. Boosters loved him. Most importantly, the team loved him.

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Haden hired Steve Sarkisian after spending a million dollars on a search firm. A phone call probably could have saved USC some money. Breaking away from the Pete Carroll tree would have also been advisable, especially in hindsight.

Carroll wanted Sarkisian to replace him. Instead Sarkisian replaced a combination of his best friend Lane Kiffin, Orgeron and Clay Helton. Sarkisian kept Helton on as offensive coordinator but decided to keep play calling duties.

After a 9-4 2014 campaign, Sark’s dirty laundry came to light. His wife filed for divorce and his drinking problem became evident at this season’s Salute To Troy event. Sark should have been fired then, but Haden did what Haden has done, wait too late to make the right decision or flat out make the wrong decision.

USC inexplicably lost to Washington at home on national television, and much like Kiffin’s inexcusable home loss to Washington State, the final straw was drawn. Sark showed up to work intoxicated and Haden suspended him. The next day he fired him and gave Helton the job.

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Nov 13, 2015; Boulder, CO, USA; USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton during the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. The Trojans won 27-24. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Clay Helton took over a 3-2 Trojans team that was rudderless and without a captain. Since then, USC has gone 5-2 with a 5-0 record in PAC 12 South play, including a dominant victory over UCLA.

The knock against Helton is his offense has started out slow, and that bit ‘SC against Oregon. However, the Trojans still managed to make it to the PAC 12 Title game despite all the unfortunate incidents leading up to and during the first half of the season.

USC wouldn’t be playing Stanford on Saturday if not for the leadership Helton has showcased. He’s added stability and a toughness that has been lacking for years, and unlike Sarkisian, has actually dedicated the offense to running the ball.

That was none the more evident than against UCLA, as the Trojans powered their way to 235 rushing yards and dominating time of possession. If USC is going to beat Stanford, they’ll need to do the exact same thing.

By hiring Helton, USC eliminates a week of speculation heading into the Pac 12 Championship, which would have been an unnecessary distraction.

A short-term deal of three years and knowing what to expect from Helton is the safe hire, unlike the previous two offensive coordinators USC hired.

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The players love him and stability is what the program needed.

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There are more unknowns regarding an outside hire, because no matter how successful a coach may be, not everyone fits in at USC, not to mention that hire would have proven costly. In what will probably be Haden’s last big decision as Athletic Director, he finally got it right.

The University of Georgia just fired their head coach Mark Richt. Without question, he’s probably the second best coach that program ever had. However, the expectations are so high around the college football world these days it seems that many have lost perspective. He was asked to coach the Bulldogs in their bowl game and he accepted.

Coach O was so irate that he didn’t get the job he refused to coach USC in the Las Vegas Bowl. Whether Orgeron supporters like it or not, that was a selfish act.

Thanks to that selfish act, Coach Helton was given the same opportunity. He’s passed with flying colors.