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Considering Itself Outside the Title Picture, U.S.C. Fires Clay Helton

With the College of Southern California’s protection being gashed, its offense stagnant and its self-discipline missing — the kicker was ejected on the opening kickoff — followers on the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum showered the workforce with boos throughout a 42-28 thumping by the hands of Stanford, which entered Saturday’s recreation as a 17-point underdog.

Afterward, Clay Helton, the seventh-year coach, pleaded for calm.

“On the finish of the season, see the place we’re at,” he advised reporters.

Wherever the Trojans are on the finish of the season, Helton received’t be round to see it. He was fired Monday amid rising fury from the varsity’s alumni and former gamers for whom Saturday wasn’t only a dangerous recreation, however one other affirmation that the soccer program would by no means grow to be a contender for a nationwide title beneath Helton.

In reality, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, in asserting a nationwide seek for a brand new coach, stated in an announcement that the Trojans can be higher off for the rest of the season with Donte Williams, a 39-year-old cornerbacks coach who has by no means even served as a coordinator, because the interim head coach.

Bohn, who replaced Lynn Swann because the athletic director two years in the past, stated that regardless of including sources for the soccer program since he arrived, it was clear even after two video games — a win over San Jose State and the loss to Stanford — that U.S.C. was nowhere close to changing into a nationwide championship contender. “It’s already evident that, regardless of the enhancements, these expectations wouldn’t be met with out a change in management,” he stated.

If Helton’s firing was a shock this early within the season, it’s de rigueur for the Trojans, who’ve fairly the history of bloodletting with football coaches.

Lane Kiffin was fired on the airport after being summoned from the workforce bus upon returning to Los Angeles following a defeat at Arizona State. Steve Sarkisian checked into rehab after getting fired in the midst of the season after repeatedly showing up drunk. And years in the past, John Robinson returned house from Christmas purchasing to discover a message on his answering machine that he had been axed.

This resolution, although, might need been made far earlier however for the whopping six-year contract extension Helton was awarded by Swann earlier than the 2018 season — one that’s anticipated to have paid him near $5 million this season and runs for 2 extra years.

The Trojans, who have been carried to the Rose Bowl and the Cotton Bowl by quarterback Sam Darnold in Helton’s first two full seasons, have gone 19-14 since Helton signed the brand new contract. In final yr’s pandemic-shortened season, the Trojans received their 5 convention video games, however their hopes of sneaking into the Faculty Soccer Playoff vanished once they have been upset on their house area by Oregon within the Pac-12 championship recreation.

Helton by no means gained a foothold with U.S.C. followers, who have been befuddled that the previous athletic director Pat Haden — who like his successor Swann had been a star soccer participant on the college — promoted Helton to interim coach after firing Sarkisian, after which gave him the everlasting job. Haden had beforehand handed on one other interim coach, selecting to not retain Ed Orgeron, who two years in the past coached Louisiana State to a nationwide championship.

Helton’s teaching workers was a revolving door, and every August he appeared to vow a extra disciplined workforce. However even a rousing comeback victory over the convention rival U.C.L.A. final yr was marred by Trojans taunting their rivals when the sport ended — Helton falling to the turf attempting to drag his gamers away.

The scene was an image of a coach who didn’t have management of his workforce.

The price of firing Helton can be appreciable, presumably within the neighborhood of $15 million (the phrases of his contract will not be public as a result of U.S.C. is a personal college). However with a $315 million renovation of the Coliseum to be paid for partly by ticket gross sales, a substantial monetary hit from the pandemic and declining attendance, there was additionally a value to doing nothing.

On Monday, U.S.C. determined it was an excessive amount of to bear.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/13/sports activities/soccer/usc-fires-clay-helton.html | Contemplating Itself Exterior the Title Image, U.S.C. Fires Clay Helton

Huynh Nguyen

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