USC head coach Clay Helton sits in the “safe and secure” bracket of CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd’s latest coaching hot seat rankings for 2017.
If you were wondering what temperature Clay Helton’s seat is entering the 2017 season, the answer is “cold.”
At least, that’s how Dennis Dodd sees it. The CBS Sports’ analyst rated Helton with a 1, for “safe and secure,” in his annual coaching hot seat ranking.
Helton debuted in the hot seat rankings last year at a 2, meaning his status was “all good…for now.” Other categories include 0 for “untouchable,” 3 for “pressure is mounting,” 4 for “start improving now,” and 5 for “win or be fired.”
The upgrade into the 1 category is a fair reflection of Helton’s success in winning a Rose Bowl to cap the 2016 season. Despite a rocky start, the Trojans ripped off nine consecutive victories and finished the campaigned ranked No. 3 in the final AP Top 25.
Still, recent history would suggest that calling Helton’s job “safe and secure” might be a bit of a reach.
Standards at USC are always high, which can be tough on head coaches who are expected to win big and keep winning. That only becomes more pressing the more hype that enters the picture.
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Look no further than Lane Kiffin’s journey in 2012. Dodd rated Kiffin at a 1 on his scale ahead of that season, which seems perfectly reasonable as the Trojans were coming off of a magical 2011 season, returned a Heisman candidate at quarterback and were ranked atop the national preseason polls.
Things changed very quickly as the Trojans stumbled to close out the year, tumbling out of the rankings and into the Sun Bowl as the sharks began to circle Kiffin. He ended up as a 4 in Dodd’s 2013 rankings and was ultimately fired midseason.
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The example isn’t to suggest that Helton is in danger of following in Kiffin’s footsteps. However, the reality at USC is that disappointment is not tolerated for long. In that sense, Dodd’s “all good…for now” is probably a more accurate reflection of Helton’s standing.
Truth is, until a USC head coach has a national title on his resume, “safe and secure” doesn’t really exist.
So long as he keeps pace with expectations, Helton will be fine. The moment he falls behind, the “Fire Helton” hashtags will no doubt return.