When USC athletic director Lynn Swann resigned this week, football coach Clay Helton lost a key ally. Swann didn’t hire Helton, and he and Helton weren’t even particularly chummy behind the scenes.
But they were linked by the golden handcuffs of the ridiculous contract extension that Swann gave Helton in February of 2018. It’s a deal that will be remembered as the negotiating version of Swann sitting alone at an auction and holding up his pamphlet over and over to bid against himself for Helton’s services. At a time when Helton had little leverage, USC massively misjudged the market and overpaid.
Deal - Helton - USC - Season - Buyout
That deal locked Helton to USC through the 2023 season and comes with a devastating buyout that would even put a dent in USC’s deep athletic department coffers. While USC moved administratively to start anew in the athletic department by pushing out Swann, Helton’s latest faceplant on the field could end up being remembered as the beginning of the end of his coaching tenure at USC.
USC fell to BYU, 30-27, in overtime on Saturday. The game was the easiest on paper of a four-game slate that will ultimately determine Helton’s fate, as the Trojans host No. 11 Utah on Friday and then travel to No. 23 Washington and then No. 7 Notre Dame after a bye week. They’ll be underdogs in all four, and Helton is 1-12 as an underdog as head coach.
BYU - Offers - USC - Reminder - Helton
Losing at BYU offers USC fans a searing reminder that Helton has done them a fine service as a classy caretaker in the wake of the messes of Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian. He’s a consummate gentleman who has resurrected the school’s off-field reputation and acted in a relentlessly professional manner. But coming off a 5-7 season and staring at another year of mediocrity, there’s little empirical evidence that...
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