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 staff 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 informed reporters.
Wherever the Trojans are on the finish of the season, Helton gained’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 unhealthy recreation, however one other affirmation that the soccer program would by no means change into a contender for a nationwide title beneath Helton.
In truth, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, in saying a nationwide seek for a brand new coach, stated in an announcement that the Trojans could 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 changed Lynn Swann because the athletic director two years in the past, stated that regardless of including assets 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 turning into a nationwide championship contender. “It’s already evident that, regardless of the enhancements, these expectations wouldn’t be met with no 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 historical past of bloodletting with soccer coaches.
Lane Kiffin was fired on the airport after being summoned from the staff bus upon returning to Los Angeles following a defeat at Arizona State. Steve Sarkisian checked into rehab after getting fired in the course of the season after repeatedly displaying up drunk. And years in the past, John Robinson returned dwelling from Christmas buying to discover a message on his answering machine that he had been axed.
This choice, although, may 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 had 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 gained their 5 convention video games, however their hopes of sneaking into the School Soccer Playoff vanished after they had been upset on their dwelling discipline by Oregon within the Pac-12 championship recreation.
Helton by no means gained a foothold with U.S.C. followers, who had 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 staff. 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 making an attempt to tug his gamers away.
The scene was an image of a coach who didn’t have management of his staff.
The price of firing Helton will probably be appreciable, presumably within the neighborhood of $15 million (the phrases of his contract should not 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 via 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.