LOS ANGELES (AP) — Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast and special teams coordinator John Baxter will not return to coach Clay Helton’s staff at Southern California.
Helton announced the dismissals Saturday, one day after the No. 22 Trojans (8-5) lost 49-24 to Iowa in the Holiday Bowl.
The changes were widely anticipated after new USC athletic director Mike Bohn elected to retain Helton earlier this month. Helton and Bohn promised to make unspecified changes to accompany Helton’s return, which is widely unpopular among a large portion of USC’s fan base.
“In evaluating our team’s performance this year and after consulting with AD Mike Bohn, it is evident that these changes are necessary,” Helton said in a statement. “Although we did fight through adversity all season and we showed improvement over the previous year, my coaching staff and I fell short of fielding a championship team. We are taking immediate steps to improve our competitiveness and meet the winning expectations of our student-athletes and fans.”
Pendergast has been USC’s defensive coordinator for the past four seasons under Helton, returning to the school in 2016 after serving as defensive coordinator for a single season in 2013.
While Pendergast’s defenses have largely performed well during his tenure, his current unit is ranked 77th in the nation this season in total defense, yielding 408.7 yards per game.
USC has been plagued by special teams mistakes in recent years under Baxter, who also returned to the school in 2016 along with Pendergast after a previous stint with the Trojans on Lane Kiffin’s staff.
USC gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown in the Holiday Bowl.
Baxter also was the Trojans’ tight ends coach this season.
First-year offensive coordinator Graham Harrell recently got a multiyear contract extension after the offense’s marked improvement this season.
USC fans are still widely unhappy with the return of Helton after his Trojans lost 12 games in the last two seasons. The former interim head coach hasn’t restored USC to national title contention in four years with the full-time job, but Bohn praised Helton’s professionalism and program-building work when he decided to keep the coach in charge.