USC Football Now Stands At the Crossroads

Alexander: Now it’s time for USC football to think big

After moving on from the embattled Clay Helton, an earthshaking move is in order

Jim Alexander (OC Register)  —  What took them so long?

That is, I’m sure, what a resounding majority of USC football supporters are saying today. Two games into what was expected to be a win-or-go-home season for Clay Helton, he was shown the door Monday afternoon. Athletic director Mike Bohn tried to say all the right things in his statement announcing Helton’s firing, but the second sentence may have been the tell.

“Clay is one of the finest human beings I have met in this industry, and he has been a tremendous role model and mentor to our young men,” Bohn wrote. And across the self-proclaimed Trojan Family, supporters nodded their heads and assured themselves that the late Leo Durocher was right.

“Nice guys finish last” may not be the exact quote allegedly uttered by the fiery and often irascible baseball manager. But it’s a reality more often than not, especially in football. Like it or not, to succeed in an intense and sometimes mean sport a coach must make his athletes, and sometimes assistant coaches as well, think that he’s at least capable of temporary insanity. He doesn’t always have to yell – it’s more effective when rarely used, actually – but he needs his players to understand that if they screw up there will be consequences.

Youthful exuberance has its place, but so does a businesslike approach. After all, College Football Inc. is a business, one in which players are at last allowed a share of the financial rewards. But it’s hard to justify giving Name-Image-Likeness dollars to players in a program speeding toward irrelevance.

The scene at the Coliseum Saturday night was telling. As Stanford had its way with USC, the boos got louder. Eventually, toward the end of the Cardinal’s 42-28 beatdown of the Trojans, fans decided it wasn’t worth any more of their time and headed for the exits early.

It might have been different had this been the first time. It wasn’t, by a long shot. We recall an early November loss to Oregon – the Justin Herbert Ducks – in 2019, a few days before Bohn was introduced as the new athletic director. That night, the Ducks began to pull away in the third quarter and USC fans started heading home to the point that by game’s end, 80 percent of the fans still in the building were wearing Oregon colors.

When Bohn had his introductory press conference the following Thursday, many Trojan fans were dismayed he didn’t bring Urban Meyer with him to the podium then and there. I’m not sure that would have helped, but the point was that the fan base was fed up way before this. If Saturday’s boos and empty seats were the last straw, a lot was being overlooked in the meantime.

Helton got a free pass of sorts in 2020 because no fans were allowed in the Coliseum. What do you suppose the reaction would have been as Oregon piled up a two-touchdown lead in last December’s Pac-12 championship game and the Trojans kept tripping themselves up with mistakes and poor decisions? SC did show grit during that shortened season, but they put themselves in too many holes too many times.

Helton said it himself after that game, and whether it was sincere or smarmy is for you to decide: “You know, we’re judged on championships here. That’s the beauty of this place. That’s the expectation. That’s the standard. That’s what we fight for. That’s why our hearts are broken in that locker room, because that’s the only thing we will accept as a team, is a championship.”

If that is indeed the standard, let there be no more settling.

Bohn noted in his statement Monday the increase in football resources and staff the last two seasons and the accompanying expectations, though he stopped short of mentioning the potential that NIL opportunities could create for one of college football’s glamour programs.

This is an opportunity to not only reshape USC football but the Pac-12 and who knows, maybe all of college football. It requires someone capable of handling huge expectations. Interim coach Donte Williams will handle the duties the rest of the season, and he is widely regarded as one of college football’s best recruiters. But this is not a task for the inexperienced.

The view from here? Mike Bohn’s first call should be to Jimmy Sexton, the longtime agent with the Creative Artists Agency (which, lo and behold, is based in Los Angeles). Sexton represents a number of the NFL’s most prominent players, and he also represents most of the SEC’s coaches – including the Big Kahuna, Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Yes, Saban just signed an extension with Alabama through 2028 that will put his average annual compensation north of $10 million. And maybe, probably, in all likelihood, he’d say no thanks, preferring to stay in Tuscaloosa and with a program that already spits out national championship rings on a regular basis.

But make the call anyway. If Bohn and USC’s administrators truly seek a return to football prominence, how better to send a message to all of college football that they’re serious?

ocregister.com

_________

TrojanDailyBlog members  —  Always feel free to add information or topics to the TDB which don’t necessarily pertain to any particular moderator post or member comment.

 

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John Weld
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John Weld (@johnnynumbers)
September 13, 2021 7:29 pm

Clay Helton’s good-bye message.

TrojanMPA90
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TrojanMPA90 (@trojanmpa90)
September 14, 2021 9:20 am

I don’t see us getting Saban. My concern with Urban Meyer is the baggage he brings and how long will he stay before he retires. If we go with him, we may need to also hire a coach in waiting who is young and could take over for him when he does retire.

RialtoTrojan
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RialtoTrojan (@rialtotrojan)
September 13, 2021 8:12 pm

I don’t know if Saban would fit well at USC, but if I get the point USC needs to big with this hire. I really don’t see anyone available now and but I don’t watch coaches, I watch players. All I do know is that anybody who can plan and strategize like Saban is better than Helton.

PN4SC
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PN4SC (@pn4sc)
September 13, 2021 7:50 pm

This is a great day for USC Football. Clay’s stench will finally be removed. A nice guy sure, but he could not stop himself from lying repeatedly to the media and the fan base. It may take us a while to recover, but the healing starts now. If getting embarrassed by Stanford got Clay fired, then it was well worth it.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for another school to hire Clay as their HC. Not gonna happen, except many the DIV 2 level. He probably ends up at Conference USA as a QB coach.

HOF19
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HOF19 (@hof19)
September 13, 2021 7:29 pm

So if we play like crap this weekend vs Washington State who do we pick on ?????

TrojanRJJ
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TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
September 13, 2021 7:35 pm
Reply to  HOF19

HOF19, The rest of this year is irrelevant. Clay killed this program, killed the careers of all his chosen assistants, and failed to develop the talent given him. He also alienated a loyal fan base and cost his employer millions. All the while, he made millions. Sorry, I really do not care what happens this year. It was lost anyway. Anything above 6-6 is gravy. Hope the kids have a good time playing this year and getting themselves to make NIL money by winning. If these kids win, they will all do very well financially. If they play like they… Read more »

Steveg
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Steveg (@steveg)
September 13, 2021 7:47 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

I can’t say this season is irrelevant. I am sure it is not irrelevant to the players, the coaches or the students. What is relevant is how these players turn around and decide to play the game they way they all basically know how to. It isn’t irrelevant to me, every game gets watched, every article gets read, and who knows how it will go by the end of November. 6-6 is possible, but a change in attitude could take that to a much better result. I said USC was dead, you disagreed. You were right, the patient has new… Read more »

Steveg
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Steveg (@steveg)
September 13, 2021 7:48 pm
Reply to  HOF19

Bohn for letting our scape goat go.

TrojanRJJ
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TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
September 13, 2021 7:26 pm

First of all, thank you Stanford. Allen was a prophet when he posted in that Saturday night debacle that it was the greatest day in SC Football history. He was correct. Second, thank you Oregon and UCLA. Given those two programs ascendancy (and make no mistake, UCLA is the real deal this year), as Plaschke made clear, if Clay stayed, SC becomes irrelevant in the southern California and national markets. Third, hats off to Allen. He predicted that SC football would return. And, based on what I read and the action taken, I think he was correct all along. Sorry,… Read more »

LawyerJohn
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LawyerJohn (@lawyerjohn)
September 13, 2021 7:05 pm

Come on, Helton was not a good coach, ok?– But this attacking of his character was not fair, nor accurate. He is the product of his environment, where family, football, and faith are part of people’s make-up. I think the fact he was well liked by recruits and their families, especially the mothers, speaks to how Helton was a genuine good guy. But the requirements of a good coach are not how good of a guy you are, but whether you produce wins on Saturdays. McKay was an arrogant, ‘the players be damned’ kind of guy. Saban is who I… Read more »

PN4SC
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PN4SC (@pn4sc)
September 13, 2021 7:53 pm
Reply to  LawyerJohn

Yeah, Clay was a genuine good guy, even though time after time lied to anyone who would listen, about all the great things he was going to accomplish. He consistently wrote checks he couldn’t cash. I am thrilled he will no longer be around to stink up the sidelines.

LawyerJohn
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LawyerJohn (@lawyerjohn)
September 14, 2021 7:41 am
Reply to  PN4SC

Tell us what you really think, PN4SC. Helton would say, “I know at SC championships are expected. And that is what I am here for. Our team is off to a poor start, but come back in November and see who we are.”– Now, those are not lies, but I will give you this, he was a salesman.

ATL D.D.S.
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ATL D.D.S. (@atl-d-d-s)
September 14, 2021 3:56 am
Reply to  LawyerJohn

Kumbayah, John Puhleeze! Helton sucked as a Coach and should have resigned when he had earned enough dough to pay for his descendants’ college educations for the next several generations.

LawyerJohn
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LawyerJohn (@lawyerjohn)
September 14, 2021 6:25 am
Reply to  ATL D.D.S.

Come on Atlanta Dentist, admit you secretly had a soft spot in your heart for dear old Helton.

ATL D.D.S.
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ATL D.D.S. (@atl-d-d-s)
September 15, 2021 9:53 am
Reply to  LawyerJohn

😀

TrojanRJJ
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TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
September 13, 2021 7:27 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

He should not be. Swann will go down in infamy by signing that awful extension. I will never forget. I doubt most of the SC football alumni will either.

PN4SC
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PN4SC (@pn4sc)
September 13, 2021 7:54 pm
Reply to  TrojanRJJ

You are correct. Swann traded a big paycheck for his legacy, which he destroyed forever.

LawyerJohn
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LawyerJohn (@lawyerjohn)
September 14, 2021 6:23 am
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Didn’t Saban just get a 7-year extension into 2028?– Oh, I guess his situation is different than Helton’s but I could be wrong.

TrojanRJJ
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TrojanRJJ (@trojanrjj)
September 13, 2021 7:41 pm
Reply to  Allen Wallace

Allen, if I read Bohn correctly, two points are obvious: the next HC will be an experienced HC and the players will have zero input into the choice. AZ made a mistake in walking away from the Navy coach because their QB did not like him. Instead AZ hired Kevin Sumlin to mollify Kahlil Tate, and it was a disaster. Tate never accomplished squat under Sumlin and never made it in the pros.