Considering Itself Outside the Title Picture, U.S.C. Fires Clay Helton

With the University of Southern California’s protection being gashed, its offense stagnant and its self-discipline missing — the kicker was ejected on the opening kickoff — followers at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum showered the group with boos throughout a 42-28 thumping at the arms of Stanford, which entered Saturday’s sport as a 17-point underdog.

Afterward, Clay Helton, the seventh-year coach, pleaded for calm.

“At the end of the season, see where we’re at,” he instructed reporters.

Wherever the Trojans are at the finish of the season, Helton received’t be round to see it. He was fired Monday amid growing fury from the college’s alumni and former gamers for whom Saturday wasn’t only a dangerous sport, however one other affirmation that the soccer program would by no means turn into a contender for a nationwide title below Helton.

In truth, Athletic Director Mike Bohn, in asserting a nationwide seek for a brand new coach, mentioned in an announcement that the Trojans could be higher off for the the rest of the season with Donte Williams, a 39-year-old cornerbacks coach who has by no means even served as a coordinator, as the interim head coach.

Bohn, who changed Lynn Swann as the athletic director two years in the past, mentioned 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 is already evident that, despite the enhancements, those expectations would not be met without a change in leadership,” he mentioned.

If Helton’s firing was a shock this early in the season, it’s de rigueur for the Trojans, who’ve fairly the historical past of bloodletting with soccer coaches.

Lane Kiffin was fired at the airport after being summoned from the group bus upon returning to Los Angeles following a defeat at Arizona State. Steve Sarkisian checked into rehab after getting fired in the center 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.

Stanford working again Nathaniel Peat, proper, had greater than 100 yards speeding on solely six carries in the Cardinal’s 42-28 win.Credit…Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

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 have 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 new contract. In final 12 months’s pandemic-shortened season, the Trojans received their 5 convention video games, however their hopes of sneaking into the College Football Playoff vanished after they have been upset on their dwelling discipline by Oregon in the Pac-12 championship sport.

Helton by no means gained a foothold with U.S.C. followers, who have been befuddled that the former athletic director Pat Haden — who like his successor Swann had been a star soccer participant at 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 group. But even a rousing comeback victory over the convention rival U.C.L.A. final 12 months was marred by Trojans taunting their rivals when the sport ended — Helton falling to the turf attempting to tug his gamers away.

The scene was an image of a coach who didn’t have management of his group.

The price of firing Helton might be appreciable, presumably in the neighborhood of $15 million (the phrases of his contract are usually not public as a result of U.S.C. is a non-public college). But with a $315 million renovation of the Coliseum to be paid for partially via ticket gross sales, a substantial monetary hit from the pandemic and declining attendance, there was additionally a price to doing nothing.

On Monday, U.S.C. determined it was an excessive amount of to bear.