What does the wait for Clay Helton news mean for USC?

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

Does no news on Clay Helton’s status as head coach mean good news or bad news for USC fans? Here’s what we can deduce from the wait for answers.

25 Best Three-Star Trojans. BEST OF USC

It has been 10 days since USC’s final game of the 2019 regular season. Which means its been 10 days of waiting for official word on the fate of head coach Clay Helton.

Rumors have swirled for months about the prospect of Helton being let go after the season. It seemed an inevitability when USC started the 2019 season 3-3 then suffered a home blowout to Oregon. However, three-straight wins to end the campaign moved the Trojans to 8-4 with new athletic director Mike Bohn faced with a less certain decision.

CHECK OUT: Michael Pittman wins Pop Warner Award

The first seven days of delay made sense considering the bye week situation. The Trojans hopes of winning the Pac-12 South depended on Utah slipping up in their final game. Holding off to see whether USC might be in the conference title game was reasonable enough.

But that question was asked and answered on Saturday when the Utes dispatched Colorado and punched their ticket to Santa Clara.

On Sunday morning, a report from Adam Maya of The Maven emerged that Helton would be dismissed. The report was quickly disputed by a bevy of national and local reporters, leaving USC fans in limbo once more.

Monday seemed like a day to expect news to break, with USC’s athletic department back in full swing, but no news dropped.

Tuesday morning passed with no developments as well.

So what does this wait mean? Trojan fans are anxious to know.

Depending on your perspective, the wait for news on Helton could mean one thing or another.

Some think the lack of a vote of confidence for Helton indicates his likely firing.

With recruiting to get done, if USC was going to keep Helton why wouldn’t they just announce he is staying?

On the flip side, the silence could mean Helton is being retained. He and his staff are on the recruiting trail, making in-home visits. Why would USC let Helton continue to recruit if they’re planning to ax him?

What if USC is just waiting for the Pac-12 title game? What if they’re waiting for a replacement to agree to a deal before making a move? What if they want to talk to Utah’s Kyle Whittingham or Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos?

What if players are complicating matters? What if it’s the reported $20 million buyout? What if it’s Urban Meyer? What if it’s James Franklin?

There are more what ifs than answers at this point. But maybe that’s the point.

At this stage, nothing makes sense.

It doesn’t make sense for USC to keep Helton swinging in the wind if they’ve already decided to get rid of him.

And it doesn’t make sense for USC to delay an announcement that they’ve decided to retain him.

So the only thing that makes sense is that no decision has been made.


USC’s problem right now appears to be indecision. Whether it’s the choice to keep Helton or fire him, the wait isn’t helping.

As other college programs announce their coaching changes, both at the top and among coordinators, the race to fill positions with the best candidates will tighten up.

The Early Signing Period hangs over all of this as well. While USC has already added one commitment this week—three-star offensive tackle Casey Collier—their ability to land top prospects will only stagnate the longer they withhold an answer on who those recruits will be coached by.

Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Graham Harrell has already been named as a candidate for the Texas OC job. Leaving USC’s assistant coaches without assurances much longer could tempt them to find stability elsewhere.

No one seems to know which way the wind will blow on Helton’s fate. It’s time to be decisive either way.

Assuming the choice is still up in the air, here’s some friendly advice for Mike Bohn: Wavering on keeping Helton in the first place says everything you need to know about the wisdom of that decision. If he was your guy, you’d know it already.