Clay Helton, USC? Win Or Else

    USC could've hired just about anyone it wanted to take over the head coaching gig? Clay Helton had better rock.

    November 30, 2015

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    Sorry if this blurb sucks, it’s not my fault …

    Now this is my full-time, permanent job. It means I have to actually show up.

    ”The night the Hacienda opened. Everyone wanted to play. Bowie, Queen, The Stones.
    I chose A Certain Ratio, because they were my band. And that was the point of the Hacienda. It was a place for people we knew, people we could trust.”

    Pat Haden, you could’ve had anyone.

    Clay Helton might turn out to be special. He might be the next Urban, the next Saban, the next Carroll, but that’s a guess.

    Athletic director Pat Haden claimed he took the “inexact science” part of the hire out of the equation because Helton is a “man of integrity,” but screw that. You know who’s the ultimate man of integrity in college coaching? Mark Richt, and he got his butt tossed to the curb.

    You take integrity. I’ll take a team full of Reggie Bushes who give me a dynasty that some phony-baloney NCAA type tries to take away with a keystroke.

    Hopefully this really does work out for Helton, who really does have the good guy, no drama thing happening that’s a must at the moment after the Kiffin and Sark misfires – although I’ll argue that neither one should’ve been fired, but that’s for another day.

    But there’s more pressure on this hire than there’d be with just about any other coaching option, mainly because of what Haden is passing up.

    There can’t be rumors floating around that Chip Kelly is at least a thought, and that “integrity” is a major factor, and then the Plan B is Clay Helton. The whole coaching world was there to be interviewed, and there was no need to aim any lower than one-notch below the Urbans and Sabans, and even the Belichicks of the world.

    Everyone always likes to bring up how Trojan types howled when Pete Carroll was hired, but the program is in a far different place now.

    Carroll came in after Paul Hackett, John Robinson Part 2, Larry Smith and Ted Tollner. From 1984 until 2001 – Carroll’s first season – USC had six Pac-10 titles, but just one ten-win season, not even a sniff of a national title, and just three top ten finishes. As rough as Kiffin’s era was, he came up with a 10-2 campaign with a team decimated by sanctions, and was partly responsible for a second ten-win campaign two year later.

    Even Seven-Win Sark went 9-4 in 2014.

    The bar is set higher than when Carroll came aboard. Mike Garrett could afford to take a wee bit of a flier on greatness. Haden can’t.

    You could be hired as the USC head man come up with a top ten recruiting class, but that’s not the point. Now, if you’re not in the College Football Playoff debate each and every year, you’re not good enough.

    But even more than that, Haden might be underselling his own program.

    Obviously he did his due diligence, and obviously he knows what’s out there and who’s really interested in the gig, but the USC opening is on top of the chain. It’s bigger than Georgia, it’s bigger than LSU would’ve been, it’s bigger than South Carolina.

    It’s a program that was able to get a hot Lane Kiffin away from Tennessee. It’s a program that wouldn’t be totally off its rocker if it wanted to go after just about any name you can come up with.

    And now it has Clay Helton.

    I’m hoping integrity and personality wins out – there just aren’t enough big-time college football coaches who aren’t dillweeds.

    But did Pete Carroll have that “integrity” Haden is looking for? The program got put on a Coma Penalty under his watch, but if he showed any interest, there’d be a riot if he didn’t take back his old gig.

    Being likeable – cough, Nick Saban, cough – and having players love you doesn’t mean national championships are coming, and that’s what has to matter to USC.

    Either Helton gets USC to the College Football Playoff again in the next two years, or this hire didn’t work. Either USC wins a national title in the next three years, or this hire didn’t work.

    No pressure.

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