‘Future is bright’: USC’s Helton to return in 2020

USC coach Clay Helton will return for his fifth full season with the Trojans, new athletic director Mike Bohn announced Wednesday.

“I am pleased to let you know Coach Helton will continue to be our head coach,” Bohn tweeted. “His commitment to our student-athletes and to leading with integrity is vital to restoring our championship program, which is the goal for all of our teams.

“Heading into 2020, Coach Helton and I will work together to take a hard look at all aspects of the football enterprise and will make the tough decisions necessary to compete at a championship level.”

The official decision comes 11 days after the Trojans’ final game of the regular season and four days after they were eliminated from contention in the Pac-12 South. The Trojans (8-4 overall, 7-2 Pac-12) will likely play in either the Alamo Bowl or Holiday Bowl.

Last year, former athletic director Lynn Swann released a similar statement after the Trojans finished 5-7, their first losing season since 2000. Swann stepped down in September; Bohn, who had been the athletic director at Cincinnati since 2014, took over in November.

“I appreciate the support from President [Carol] Folt and Mike Bohn. It is abundantly clear that we now have the support, resources and tools to build a championship team,” Helton said in a statement. “We know the expectations of our fans are high, as they should be. Those are the same expectations I have for myself and that our staff and team have as well.

“Our future is bright. We have a young team on the verge of doing something special. We have seen what this team can do, having the season we have had despite going through adversity and injuries. We are headed to a great bowl and we plan to finish the season strong. And we are putting the final touches on an outstanding recruiting class. I believe in our team and in our fan base. I know we will all come together to succeed. I am excited about the future”

The Trojans held a team meeting Wednesday to inform the players of the decision, sources told ESPN.

Helton took over the program as the interim coach in 2015 after Steve Sarkisian was fired. After guiding the team to the Pac-12 championship game that season, he led the Trojans to a Rose Bowl title in 2016 and the Pac-12 title in 2017.

Helton is 40-21 as USC coach, which includes two stints on an interim basis. Since he was named the permanent head coach by former athletic director Pat Haden, the Trojans are 26-10 in Pac-12 play, which is tied with Washington for the best in-conference record during that span.

With Helton on the seemingly perpetual hot seat, USC’s recruiting efforts have taken a major hit.

Traditionally one of the top recruiting schools in the country, USC has just 11 known commitments and only two of them received higher than a three-star grade from ESPN. The class is currently not among ESPN’s top 40.

USC is scheduled to open the 2020 season against Alabama.

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