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Time to change course

Time to change course

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After USC’s 24-20 victory over Arizona in Tucson Saturday night, something became clear. There is nothing to say about this football team that hasn’t already been said a million times.

So, let’s not talk about it, well except briefly. USC is 3-2. Both losses were bad, all three wins were painful to watch. Nothing was really too different about this Arizona game compared to the other four. The Trojans did get the run game going in a big way. They were also were penalized a lot and nearly blew a huge lead. Apologies if something significant went unsaid.

So far this season, it seems like USC is on pace to go somewhere around 7-5. It also seems like those 7 or so wins will be very painful to watch.

Because of that potential record, Clay Helton is in danger of being fired. He should be. Any year a USC team isn’t able to beat up on lower end teams in the conference, something went wrong. That’s the fault of the head coach.

But it’s really the fault of USC.

All Clay Helton did was take a job. He’s actually doing a fantastic job for a coach of his level. He obviously has no business being the head coach of USC, but for someone Memphis didn’t want on its coaching staff only 9 years ago, Helton has proven a lot.

He’s a two time Pac-12 south division champion. He’s also won a Pac-12 championship and a Rose Bowl. His record at USC is 29-12. 

He did all of that without being able to attract a single superstar assistant coach, which he shouldn’t be expected to do. Was he going to get those coaches from his connections to Lane Kiffin and Steven Sarkisian? Was he expected to poach coaches from some random school he luckily had a family connection to?

Luckily, he did those two things and it somehow worked for him. Now, Helton can rest on his laurels and brag about doing things very few men have done. He’s set for life financially. For someone who’s only 46 years old, he has a very bright future as a football coach and an impressive resume. Considering he’s a coach Memphis fired after the 2009 season, that’s damn impressive.

Again, no one would have advised Helton to turn down that job. If you take USC football out of the equation, there’s no question that Helton is a smart man who’s greatly exceeded all reasonable expectations anyone could have had for him.

The real issue is all those people who would have advised Helton to jump on his promotion at USC would have advised USC to look elsewhere. Every single one of them. Not only did USC hire him, they recently gave him an extension through 2023.

So when the Trojans continue to suffer from coaching issues in football, Helton’s neck will need to be on the chopping block, underneath a a large and sharp blade. It’s just how things work. But remember, this writer wants to see heads rolling all over the athletic department. 

It almost doesn’t feel fair that Clay Helton has to suffer embarrassment and humiliation for the stupidity of others. It’s time to punish the others.

Someone needs to accept responsibility for three bad hires in a row. Someone needs to accept responsibility for the downfall of USC baseball, NCAA sanctions in basketball and football, the FBI investigation into the basketball coaching staff, and the hiring of two different high profile head coaches, in a short period, who were notorious alcoholics.

It’s been tough for USC athletics ever since NCAA sanctions hit. There’s no question. But those sanctions are long gone. At this point, it’s clear USC is hurting itself far worse than the NCAA ever could.

So when you’re screaming for Helton to lose his job, remember that nothing will change unless other changes are made. This is the program that has hired one acceptable football coach (for USC standards) since 1978. This a program that was at its height when Pete Carroll and Tim Flord roamed the campus. Not it’s hit rock bottom.

One suggestion to USC: it’s time to hire a real athletic director and let that person do their job. That’s the only path that can result in good football in the near future. It might be way too early to fire Lynn Swann, but the thinking behind his hire is what hurts USC’s athletic program.

So this writer votes for a change right now. Fire Lynn Swann. Hire anyone with a good resume. Staying the course will result in an obvious outcome.

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