Has Clay Helton been fired as head coach of USC football?

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

Has Clay Helton been fired by USC, as reported on Sunday morning? Conflicting reports abound on the fate of the Trojan head coach.


UPDATE 12/3: Zach Barnett of Football Scoop reported on Tuesday night that Clay Helton will be retained by USC, per his sources, with an announcement expected on Wednesday.

Barnett is a reliable reporter with a history of covering the coaching carousel. That doesn’t make his reporting gospel truth, but it does give it some weight.

The waiting game now shifts gears: Here comes the wait for another reporter to confirm or deny Barnett, just as happened on Sunday with Adam Maya.

UPDATE 12/3: Bruce Feldman of the Athletic has thrown his weight behind the Barnett report…sort of.

“Sources inside #USC are optimistic that head coach Clay Helton will get retained I’m told.,” Feldman tweeted on Tuesday night.

Shortly before that, there was an update from Adam Maya of The Maven, whose report sparked the rumor mill on Sunday, that “members of the team were informed Tuesday by administration that Helton would be returning but to expect changes to the coaching staff.”

Put those together and you get plenty of signs pointing in one direction.

UPDATE 12/3: Joel Klatt of Fox Sports tweeted at 10:55 p.m. confirmation of both aspects of the previous reports.

“Expect USC to keep Clay Helton and announce some staff changes very soon,” he said.

That sentiment was further backed up by Ryan Phillips of The Big Lead. However, his tweet took more pains to hedge some bets on the subject.

“The rumor floating around right now is that Clay Helton will be back at USC but he’ll be forced to make some pretty significant staff changes,” Phillips said. “As others have said: Not what USC fans wanted to hear. I don’t think this is a done deal though. LOTS of conflicting USC info flying.”

ORIGINAL: USC fans should have always expected Sunday to be an eventful day, and it has delivered with at least one report claiming Clay Helton has been fired, while others have pumped the breaks.

At 10:52 a.m., Adam Maya of The Maven dropped the first bomb, citing sources who said “USC is dismissing the embattled fourth-year head coach and is expected to officially announce the move by Monday.”

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Just eight minutes later, USC director of player development Gavin Morris threw water on the fire with a forceful tweet appearing to reference the report.

“Now we just got reporter just making stuff up!! It’s that season of, let’s just make stuff up,” he said.

By 11:14 a.m., another report from Ryan Phillips of the Big Lead also encouraged a “pump the brakes” reaction.

“Just got a text from a USC source: “Clay hasn’t been told anything official yet,” Phillips tweeted.

At 11:30 a.m., Pat Forde of Sports Illustrated came out with an even more definite rebuttal.

“Multiple sources dispute the report that Clay Helton is being fired at USC,” he tweeted. “Souces tell me no decision has been made and it is still possible — maybe even likely — that Helton keeps his job.”

Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports weighed in at 11:34 a.m. as well.

“Just spoke to multiple USC sources. This isn’t right. And USC people are rightfully steamed,” Thamel tweeted.

Where does that leave USC?

The Trojans are right back in “wait and see mode,” which is where they started on Sunday.

Helton finished the season with an 8-4 record, but Utah’s win on Saturday night over Colorado locked the Utes into the Pac-12 title game instead of the Trojans.

Despite improvement from last year’s 5-7 campaign, Helton’s hot seat has remained one of the great areas of speculation this season.

That speculation looks like it will continue throughout Sunday.

More updates will come as news develops.

UPDATE: At 11:43 a.m., Bruce Feldman of The Athletic backed up the reports from other national reporters.

“Spoke to a couple of folks plugged in on the #USC situation who think the report that Clay Helton is getting dismissed is not accurate and that no such decision has been made to do anything like that,” Feldman tweeted. “‘I know Clay hasn’t been fired,’ one USC source just told me.”

That makes four national reporters who have confirmed that Helton’s job status is still in the wind.

Shotgun Spratling of USCFootball.com was the first writer on the USC beat to jump into the fray with similar word.

“It’s still a possibility that Clay Helton gets fired, but I’ve checked with a couple of team sources and have been told the staff has not been informed of any decision,” Spratling tweeted.

The common thread in all the more recent reports is that no decision has been made.

So the waiting continues.

UPDATE: Now Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports has added his voice.

“One high ranking USC official terms Clay Helton report ‘ridiculous.'” Dodd tweeted. “Doesn’t mean it can’t happen at some point. But nothing in the works at the moment.”

Safe to say, no one knows for certain at this point.

UPDATE: The latest to refute the report of Helton’s firing is Dan Wolken of USA Today Sports.

At 12:11 p.m., he tweeted, “Like others have reported, the information I’ve had all week – and was reiterated to me earlier this afternoon – is that there’s a good chance (maybe even better than 50/50) Clay Helton is back at USC in 2020. Today’s report was aggressively wrong.”

In case you were curious about the ferocity of the response to the initial report, Bruce Feldman’s source left nothing to interpretation.

Feldman tweeted at 12:16 p.m.: “#USC source on that Clay Helton report: ‘The only one who’s probably getting fired today is (the guy who reported that).'”

The takedown speaks for itself, even if it’s no more clear what Helton’s fate is.

UPDATE: At 12:21 p.m., another local reporter added to the wave of reports on Helton’s employment.

Ryan Kartje of the LA Times tweeted: “I can confirm other reports that there has not yet been any change to Clay Helton’s status as USC’s football coach. That’s not to something won’t change, but no decision has been made.”

The pool of reporters who could further refute the initial scoop is dwindling.

UPDATE: It’s not just reporters tweeting updates on Helton’s status.

At 12:42 p.m. USC wide receiver commit Joshua Jackson tweeted a photo of Helton and wide receivers coach Keary Colbert on an in-home recruiting visit.


While definitive news on Helton’s job status may still be coming down the line, it’s clear he is still performing his job as of Sunday afternoon.

UPDATE: TrojanSports.com reported that a team meeting has been called for 5:30 p.m.

“Sunday is normally an off day for players,” Ryan Young tweeted. “They’re as curious as everybody else about Clay Helton’s status, I’m told.”

A team meeting could mean news, one way or the other, is coming.

UPDATE: As a follow up, Trojan Sports.com has added that the meeting in question “was part of the team schedule prior to today.”

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