The University of Southern California fired head football coach Clay Helton after a string of disappointing seasons, citing a “need for change in leadership.”
Clay Helton, the head coach of the University of Southern California football team, has been dismissed, according to athletic director Mike Bohn.
The decision comes two days after the Trojans were humiliated in a 42-28 home loss to Stanford, who started the season with conference championship hopes.
“As I promised when I arrived at USC, we gave every resource required for our football team to contend for championships over the previous two off-seasons,” Bohn said in a statement announcing his departure. “With the more resources came higher expectations for our team’s performance, and it’s clear that, despite the improvements, those expectations would not be fulfilled without a change in leadership.”
Helton’s contract was set to expire in 2023. According to ESPN’s Chris Low, his buyout is in the $12 million area.
The temporary head coach will be Donte Williams. Williams joined the USC staff in 2020 as the defensive pass game coordinator and cornerbacks coach, and was promoted to assistant head coach last season. Williams, a native of the Los Angeles region, is the first Black head coach in USC football history.
Helton thanked the school, players, and fans in a tweet, calling coaching USC “a once in a lifetime chance.”
“I am eternally grateful to our players, both past and present, for everything you have given me,” Helton, 49, stated in part. “I am grateful for all of our current staff’s and student-athletes’ hard work in preparation for this season, and although it will be difficult not to be in the midst of the battle with you, I am sure that great things are ahead.”
Williams, 39, claimed he didn’t learn about the administration’s intentions until just before Helton and Bohn delivered the news to the players together.
“We still have a lot of games remaining,” Williams added, “but the season has begun.” “It’s difficult to make major changes right now, so my main focus is on improving everything we do.”
“Everyone in this organization, including myself, has to do a little bit [more] than they were doing previously.”
Helton has been with the program since 2010, when he joined Lane Kiffin’s first staff as the quarterbacks coach. Before being appointed as the head coach by then-AD Pat Haden in 2015, he worked as the offensive coordinator under both Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian.
Helton coached the Trojans for 46 years, including two stints as interim head coach, and led them to a Rose Bowl victory in 2016. This season, USC went 1-1 under Helton.
“I want to be very clear: our institution and its administration are dedicated to winning national championships and bringing USC football back to greatness,” Bohn said. “This decision is the next step in what has been a deliberate and purposeful effort to create a complete football organization that is comparable to the best programs in today’s environment,” he said.
Over the following several months, Bohn added, a nationwide search for Helton’s successor would take place.
This article was based on information from The Associated Press.