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Yahoo Sports Senior College Football Reporter Pete Thamel explains why Clay Helton is out as head coach of USC, and shares some of the leading candidates to be the next leader of the Trojans.
PETE THAMEL: The Clay Helton era is over at USC. Just two weeks into the College Football season, we already have our first A-list vacancy. This is Pete Thamel for Yahoo Sports. USC dropped a bombshell on Monday afternoon by firing long-time coach Clay Helton, who'd gone 46 and 24 over 7 full seasons, plus an interim, as the head coach of the school.
Helton was a very good coach at USC by many respects. He cleaned them up after the dumpster fires of Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, and he led them through the wilderness after the incompetent athletic director regime of Lynn Swann-- which followed the incompetent athletic director regime of Pat Haden. Helton's job, when he initially was installed as the coach at USC, was to bring the program back to respectability, to bring the class and dignity back to the program. He accomplished that in spades.
Ultimately, Helton's problem came down to the problem of a lot of coaches in college football. He simply didn't win enough. Even when Helton won the Pac-12 in 2017, even when Helton won the Rose Bowl in 2016, there was never a sense that Clay Helton had the dynamism and the coaching chops to be a national championship-winning head coach. And this move for USC was simple-- they wanted a coach who could deliver them a national title.
The biggest question in the industry now turns to who that coach will be. The leading names are going to be James Franklin of Penn State, Matt Campbell of Iowa State, Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell-- who was hired by USC AD Mike Bohn at Cincinnati. And then there's a slew of other names that'll get recognition-- PJ Fleck, Mario Cristobal at Oregon. Greg Schiano at Rutgers interviewed for the job earlier in his career. And Tony Elliott, the offensive coordinator at Clemson, is a Los Angeles native. An intriguing option.
Don't underestimate the desire for USC to hire a name, which is why the name is Bob Stoops and Chris Petersen will both emerge in this search. When you fire coach in September, you have plenty of time to court, get to know, interview coaches who are not currently coaching right now. And conveniently, Stoops and Peterson are both working at Fox, right down the street from USC in Los Angeles. Those names will certainly loom over Fox broadcasts in the USC program in weeks to come.
Clay Helton's tenure is over. He did things with class, he did things with dignity. He simply didn't win enough games. And now the college football world will be abuzz for weeks as to who will be the next USC coach to attempt to replace the relentless winning of Pete Carroll.