New USC athletic director Mike Bohn holds the fate of USC football head coach Clay Helton in his hands. His decision should come quickly.
Now that Mike Bohn is officially the new USC athletic director, he must make a swift decision on the fate of the Trojan football program.
That means firing Clay Helton, without hesitation, the first chance he gets.
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It may sound harsh, but Helton is already on his second chance. Going 5-7 in 2018 was a fireable offense on its own and former athletic director Lynn Swann showed mercy by allowing the head coach to stay on with a plan for major changes.
Those changes have fallen well short. The Trojan offense is better at racking up yards under new offensive coordinator Graham Harrell, but only marginally improved when it comes to the actual score board despite loads of talent.
The Trojan defense is statistically worse than last year, making the decision to retain Clancy Pendergast a huge misstep.
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Most concerningly, USC is still mistake-prone, still turnover-prone, still penalty-prone. Those things all go back to the top.
Bohn doesn’t owe Helton any loyalty.
When asked about the fate of the head coach during his introductory press conference, Bohn parried, calling it too early to be talking about coaching changes while he is still getting the lay of the land.
But it shouldn’t be hard for Bohn to see the inevitability of it all.
It’s reading between the lines, but his comments on Thursday morning hinted that he knows enough.
Asked what his expectations are for Helton to end the season, Bohn was unequivocal.
“We expect him to finish strong,” Bohn said, highlighting how that’s what good programs do.
“It’s Fight On, but it’s also Fight On to Victory,” he said. “It’s important to win.”
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That’s a fair standard, one that Bohn should apply harshly.
Helton’s first misstep in the final three games of the season should land him his walking papers, even if it comes this weekend against ASU in Tempe.
There is no time to delay, especially with the Early Signing Period in recruiting looming.
Bohn himself brought that up.
“I have a good sense of really quickly being able to connect and find out how we’re doing and where we’re going,” he said. “And I want to impact recruiting.”
His first act should be to put USC on the right track in recruiting ASAP. That means moving on from Helton and installing a new head coach without delay.
Wavering or stalling will only get his tenure off on the wrong foot.
He can instantly ingratiate himself to USC’s fanbase by turning the page for the football program sooner than later.
It’s not fair to anyone to keep Helton on as a dead man walking, answering point-blank questions about his job status.
It’s not fair to the Trojan athletes who have to play through a load of uncertainty.
And it’s not fair to fans who have had to tune in to too many USC football games with a sense of dread.
It’s time for swift, decisive action. It’s time to move on.