The Latest on USC's Search For an Athletic Director and How It Affects Clay Helton

Adam Maya

With only four games, and just three-and-a-half weeks, remaining in the regular season, it’s safe to assume Clay Helton will coach every game that’s already on USC’s schedule.

What happens after that will likely be determined in the coming weeks. USC has recently interviewed a few athletic director candidates and is aiming to make a hire by the end of November, sources with knowledge of the situation told SI. The school has primarily focused on sitting athletic directors.

One who appears to be out of the running is Villanova’s Mark Jackson. There was mutual interest between the two sides and back-channel dialogue prior to Lynn Swann’s resignation. But contact has cooled of late with the former USC administrator as the university has apparently moved on, per sources.

As for how this all affects Helton, when that hire is made is more important than what happens on the field Saturday against Oregon. If a new AD is in place by the conference title game, the Trojans will likely need to win not only the South Division but the entire Pac-12, which would clinch a New Year’s Six bowl, for Helton to have a shot of staying on.

The bigger question is, what if USC doesn’t have a new AD by the first week of December? Interim athletic director Dave Roberts appeared on Trojans Live on Monday and said his role in the matter will be based on how long it takes the school to hire a permanent AD, which he noted could carry into early next year or through the academic year (May).

“It’s going to be an issue of timing,” he said. “If I’m here for a shorter stint, I’ll have comments to make to the new athletic director. If it’s a longer period of time and we come to the end of the year, I’m sure I’ll be talking to the president. Right now I believe in judging people in what they do and how they perform, and the jury’s not in here. We got a run hopefully for a (South Division) championship, play in the Pac-12 Conference championship, get ourselves a good bowl game, and things will look well.

“Obviously recruiting is the lifeblood there, too, so we want to try and do everything that we can do to make sure our recruiting goes well. Remember, 2010, we lost 30 scholarships, and it takes a long time to come back to speed from that kind of a loss.”

It’s interesting that Roberts would mention recruiting, which really should create a sense of urgency in addressing the coaching situation. USC is currently staring down its worst-ranked recruiting class ever in large part because Helton is seen as a lame-duck coach. His status will obviously need to be cleared up heading into the early signing period, which begins Dec. 18. That means Roberts might be making the call on the head coach. He has publicly supported Helton but reiterated Monday that wins and losses will be his determining factor.

“Our record’s going to be our record,” Roberts said.

For weeks, Helton has noted that USC (5-3, 4-1 Pac-12) controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 South. That’s always been true, even though the Trojans haven’t been the only team that could make that claim. They’re still not, as UCLA surprisingly controls its own as well (for now). Despite USC holding the tiebreaker over Utah, the Utes, who are tied for first with the Trojans, are widely regarded as the favorites.

It’s the result of USC going more than a year since winning three straight, still having consecutive road games in November, and being about a touchdown underdog to Oregon this Saturday. Utah’s biggest remaining test will come earlier that same afternoon when it plays at Washington.

The Trojans can’t win or lose the division this weekend, but a loss coupled with a Utah win would severely weaken their chances. Of course, if they win and Utah loses, they really are in prime position to play in the conference title game. Should both teams produce the same result, win or lose, nothing changes, although Utah has the easier schedule down the stretch (vs. UCLA, at Arizona, vs. Colorado).

It leaves seemingly little margin for error for both Helton and the team, which could still win double-digit games and earn a Rose Bowl bid or miss a bowl game altogether. Some people that I’ve spoken to in the program believe if USC manages to win the conference, regardless of its record, Helton will be retained.

The caveat is if the Trojans hire a new athletic director first.

-- Adam Maya is a USC graduate and has been covering the Trojans since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @AdamJMaya.

Comments (4)
No. 1-3

Great piece as usual, Adam!


one more thing- you don’t want to make decisions but yet you want to be in the loop on new ad - it’s one or the other make up ur mind


hey Roberts the 30 scholarships were years ago has nothing to do with the present- just be honest and everyone ur keeping helton regardless of outcome

1 Reply


I hope not. Crossing my fingers that he stays away from any invitation for dinner or drinks at the Helton house. Clay's poison, i mean preaching could drum up Roberts as a closet Clay Helton supporter.

I almost want to say Roberts was putting Helton on blast with the subject of Recruiting and the loss of 30 scholarships. To me it sounded like........ "HELTON how do you muck up recruiting so fast, lose kids to Ed O and Saban regularly, allowing the program to sign more 3* kids than Kiffin and Sark ever did during those dark times and this years class won't be one we "close well" on because Helton&Pendergast have buried USC in recruiting".

I kid too much, but the sad part is this man has no understanding of what it takes to compete to become a championship level program while having grown up around the SEC and Bama was his rival so you would think he would have more fire in him and would be a tougher minded coach with a disciplined team. Last thing, Helton is a joke as we all know. But hopefully Roberts and the hired A.D. have the smarts to look over at LSU, not for Ed Orgeron but so he can see a defense led by the man that won the head-to-head battle of coordinators besting Clay Helton in the Holiday Bowl. He held CH in check. THIS MAY BE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT MISTAKE OF THE HELTON ERA THAT NEVER GETS PUT LIGHT,former Wisconsin DC Dave Aranda now at LSU under Ed O. The incompetence he showed now is just part of the ongoing joke Haden thought was ready for a promotion he didn't deserve. So......Wisconsin held Cody Kessler in check and frustrated Juju Smith that being Helton's offense and he has the audacity to think he can do better and doesn't even at least interview the guy (he was considered one of the best) after when USC was looking for a DC insisting to wait for Pendergast. Yep. Clancy "Penn St scored 7/SEVEN consecutive Tds in THEROSEBOWLGAME" Pendergast. Aranda is from Redlands 45 mins from the coliseum. Now we have a joke of a defensive coordinator while Dave Aranda is the highest paid Defensive Coordinator in college football and runs the defense for the #1 ranked team in the nation.

USC must lose Saturday. Yep. Lose. The bat signal has to be up for the man everyone wants and we have to make sure that he see's it so he can begin putting a coaching staff together. Urban Meyer would roll out of bed and turn the program around overnight. Helton belongs at Portland State or Riverside Community College. Make way for Urban Meyer.

USC cannot f*** that up!