USC entered last weekend’s game against Stanford as the prohibitive 18-point favorite. The Trojans subsequently lost 42-28.
That proved to be the final nail in Clay Helton’s coffin.
Less than 48 hours later it was announced that he was being fired from his post as USC’s head coach. Seeing as other Pac-12 coaches had been openly ridiculing Helton for years now, the move was not a particularly shocking one.
Helton went 46-24 in his time as the Trojans’ coach, with promises of better times ahead seemingly coming each year. Clearly he simply lacked whatever it takes to succeed in one of college football’s best jobs, and now the onus is USC brass to determine how to fix their rapidly sinking program.
During Tuesday’s episode of “Keyshawn, JWill & Max” on ESPN Radio, college football insider Paul Finebaum pitched two interesting candidates to take over for Helton.
“Someone like James Franklin of Penn State is the first name that comes to mind,” Finebaum told Johnson. “He’s very charismatic, he was unbelievably successful at Vanderbilt. He’s had really good success at Penn State – they haven’t quite broken through, but they’ve come close a couple of times in terms of having a legitimate shot at the national title.”
The other name to watch? Oregon head coach Mario Cristobal.
“After James Franklin, the most obvious choice is the hottest coach in the country today and that’s Mario Cristobal of Oregon,” Finebaum added. “Whether you get him to make that move down the coast, I don’t know.”
Either way, the process of finding USC’s next coach appears like it may be a long one.
During an appearance on “The Herd with Colin Cowherd” on Tuesday, former Trojans quarterback Mark Sanchez insisted that this situation wouldn’t be resolved any time soon.
“Everyone I’ve talked to at the school has said ‘This is going to be a long process,’” Sanchez said.
“Whether they hire an outside firm or do it internally, it’s a 3-month search. Everybody even thinking about that job, you’re auditioning now. It’s basically the vibe I’m getting. They’re going to take their time. Usually, you do it at the end of the season, you have somebody in mind, do 2 or 3 interviews and, boom, 2 weeks later, new coach. This thing’s going to take 3 months. I really think so. They’re not going to name anybody during the season. I think Donte Williams has a great opportunity as the interim.”
The other big name that continues to loom over the proceedings, obviously, is Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer.
On Wednesday morning, however, he spoke to the media and insisted that he had no interest in the USC opening.
— Game 7 (@game7__) September 14, 2021
“There’s no chance. I’m here and committed to building an organization,” he said.
Of course, fans couldn’t help but notice something odd about Meyer while he was issuing his denials. That coupled with Jaguars players already turning on Meyer and the chatter about how the front office may be open to firing him sooner than expected has led to speculation that maybe the Trojans door shouldn’t be fully closed just yet.
One way or another, USC needs to get this hiring right. Whether it takes a long time or a little, whether they pay a ton or nothing at all – they need to find the right man for the job. Because if they don’t, they’ll be dooming the program to another decade of mediocrity.