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USC football expected to keep Clay Helton through 2021, unless “it’s ugly”

Sep 14, 2020, 6:05 AM EDT
USC football head coach Clay Helton (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
USC football head coach Clay Helton (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Clay Helton will be USC football’s head coach for the 2021 season short of a disaster.

Whether or not USC football plays its 2020 slate, the Trojans are expected to keep Clay Helton around through the 2021 season.

That’s according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN whose accounting of the pandemic-impacted coaching carousel bodes well for embattled head coaches like Helton.

Rittenberg’s “industry sources” believe Helton will be back for the 2021 season because athletic department finances around the country will be a mess. The threshold for justifying any sort of buy out at this point has been raised.

The only exception for Helton? Complete and utter disaster in the 2020 campaign.

“[Helton will be retained] unless he loses every game and it’s ugly,” Rittenberg’s source said.

USC football won’t want to ax Clay Helton unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Athletic director Mike Bohn was in a tough position when he arrived last fall. He inherited an unpopular head coach who won just enough to avoid being an easy firing, especially with a massive buyout complicating complications.

Instead of dumping Helton, Bohn went all-in on upgrading the football program in other ways. He gave Helton the money to pursue national-title winning defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who ultimately took a head coaching job at Baylor. Even if that swing was a miss, the defensive coaching staff compiled by Todd Orlando included upgrades nearly across the board, including poaching ace Oregon recruiter Donte Williams.

The Trojans also beefed up their support staff significantly while snatching LSU’s highly-praised video team.

Before the 2020 season was nixed because of COVID-19, Helton faced a make-or-break scenario. Either the improved resources would elevate him into playoff contention, or USC could have the incentive needed to start fresh with someone new.

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Now, Helton will go into a presumptive spring season under the strangest of circumstances, with far more leeway than he could have expected.

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