Head coach Clay Helton will return in 2019, Athletic Director Lynn Swann announced Sunday.
“It is my firm belief that we have a good team returning next year and a solid foundation in place, and that Clay Helton is a good coach,” Swann said in a press release.
The Trojans finished the season 5-7 — the worst program record since 2000 — and USC finished bowl ineligible for the first time since NCAA bowl restrictions in 2011.
The decision comes amid disappointment from fans and alumni voicing frustration with the season. After falling to a .500 record on the 2018 season, Helton’s job security was repeatedly questioned by critics and underlined by Trojan fans booing in the Coliseum. USC fell under .500 after losing to two-win UCLA on Nov. 17.
“Nobody is happy with our record,” Swann said. “Everyone deserves better. It is my firm belief that we have a good team returning next year and a solid foundation in place, and that Clay Helton is a good coach.”
Throughout the downward spiral of the season Helton remained confident of his job security, consistently voicing the support he has received from Swann.
“I am very appreciative of the support that Mr. Swann and the USC administration has given our team over the last three seasons, as well as the trust and belief they have in our future,” Helton said in a press release.
Swann emphasized on retaining solid leadership throughout the turmoil.
“I am a strong advocate of consistency within a program, sticking by a leader, supporting them and helping them and their team improve,” Swann said.
He also spoke about Helton’s resume as USC head coach.
In 2017, Helton led USC to an 11-3 record and Pac-12 championship, finishing the season with a loss to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. His first full season as head coach in 2016 saw a 10-3 record and a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State.
In October of 2015, Helton was named interim head coach after Steve Sarkisian was fired. Helton became permanent head coach at the end of November, losing to Stanford in the Pac-12 championship and Wisconsin in the Holiday Bowl.
“One season does not define a coach,” Swann said. “He runs a clean program, he graduates his players, he recruits well, he produces NFL players.”
Helton came to USC in 2010 as the quarterbacks coach under Lane Kiffin and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2013. After former head coach Ed Orgeron quit the same year, Helton led USC to a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Helton said he and Swann already have plans in place to change the program in the offseason.
“I truly believe that with the continued development of the talent we have on this team, the best is yet to be,” Helton said. “Our number one goal is to win championships and we will not be satisfied with anything less.”