USC made it official on Wednesday afternoon. Clay Helton will be back as head coach of the USC Trojans for the 2020 season.
USC athletic director Mike Bohn tweeted the announcement and a message of support for Helton:
“I am pleased to let you know Coach Helton will continue to be our head coach. His commitment to our student-athletes and to leading with integrity is vital to restoring our championship program, which is the goal for all of our teams. Heading into 2020, Coach Helton and I will work together to take a hard look at all aspects of the football enterprise and will make the tough decisions necessary to compete at a championship level.”
Helton’s status as USC head coach was called into question following an 8-4 regular season in 2019, following up on a 5-7 showing in 2018. That brings Helton’s overall record at USC to 40-21.
Helton issued a statement following the announcement:
“I appreciate the support from President Folt and athletic director Mike Bohn. It is abundantly clear that we now have the support, resources and tools to build a championship team.
We know the expectations of our fans are high, as they should be. Those are the same expectations I have for myself and that our staff and team have as well.
Our future is bright. We have a young team on the verge of doing something special. We have seen what this team can do, having the season we have had despite going through adversity and injuries. We are headed to a great bowl and we plan to finish the season strong. And we are putting the final touches on an outstanding recruiting class.
I believe in our team and in our fan base. I know we will all come together to succeed. I am excited about the future of our team and our university.”
USC currently ranks 67th in the country with its 2020 recruiting class, and ahead of only Utah in the Pac-12. The Trojans don’t have a commitment from any of the top-30 prospects in California and hold commitments from just two of the top 400 prospects in the country, according to 247 Sports, as wide receiver Joshua Jackson (Harbor City, Calif./Narbonne) checks in at No. 351 and offensive guard Jonah Monheim (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark) is No. 367. Whether the Trojans can jump into the mix with elite prospects such as linebacker Justin Flowe (Upland, Calif./Upland) or cornerback Elias Ricks (Bradenton, Fla./IMG) remains to be seen, but reportedly would be highly unlikely given this decision.
The Trojans have some impact players on the roster for Helton to work with next season, but who his assistant coaches will be is now a focal point. Graham Harrell has reportedly interviewed for the head coaching position at UNLV and is also a target for the Texas offensive coordinator spot.
Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coordinator John Baxter’s units underperformed statistically last season, so whether or not they return in 2020 will be an interesting aspect of this decision.
This is a strong statement from Bohn, who came to USC with an immediate job to take stock of the Trojans football program and make a decision on its direction. This announcement will be met with plenty of negativity from outspoken USC football fans who were hoping a change would be made last season, and never fully bought in during this eight-win campaign.
USC finished seventh in the Pac-12 in capacity percentage seating this season, filling just 77% of the Coliseum for its six home games.
This past spring, Helton stated that he would be responsible for improving the Trojans’ performance when it came to turnovers and penalties. USC finished 110th in turnover margin, up from 116th in 2018, and the Trojans finished 124th in penalty yards per game, down from 122nd last season.