Clay Helton, who as its interim head coach guided the 2015 USC football team to a 5-2 record and a berth into the Pac-12 Football Championship Game with a first-place finish in the challenging Pac-12 South Division, has signed a multi-year agreement to be the Trojans’ permanent head coach, USC athletic director Pat Haden announced today (Nov. 30).
“After weeks of searching the collegiate and pro ranks, interviewing candidates, and speaking with head coaches, athletic directors, NFL executives, and very knowledgeable football people, and after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searching for in a coach was right here in front of us,” said Haden. “Choosing a coach is an inexact science. In Clay’s case, there is exactness. We have a man with unquestioned integrity. He is a fantastic person and he is real. Clay is a leader of young men. He is a terrific communicator. He brings high character, stability, continuity, consistency, toughness and resiliency to our program.
“We have known Clay well for the past six years. He earned this opportunity. He has been positive and upbeat handling adversity. He was built to be a head coach. Football is his family business. He is a coach on the rise and he will be coaching a team on the rise. As our interim head coach, Clay brought back USC’s style of physical football. I have been impressed with how hard and how inspired our team has played for him, as well as the support they have shown for him.
“Clay was not hired because his team defeated UCLA Saturday. He was not hired because many current and former players voiced their support for him. And he was not hired because he is a Trojan. He is our choice because we believe he can win Pac-12 and national championships here. Clay Helton is the right man at the right time for the USC football program.”
Said Helton: “I am extremely humbled and grateful to Max Nikias, Pat Haden and the Trojan Family for having the opportunity to be the head football coach at the University of Southern California. During my six years here, I have learned the standard of excellence that it takes to be a Trojan. I understand the expectations of this great university and welcome the challenge. I am so proud to have the chance to lead what I feel is the pinnacle of college football and to represent our Trojan Family.
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“Through the hard work and resiliency of this year’s team, we have put ourselves in position to play for a Pac-12 Championship. I would like to thank our players and coaches for the effort and dedication that they have given to this season. It has been my most memorable as a coach. We look forward to representing the Pac-12 South in Santa Clara this Saturday.”
The 43-year-old Helton was named USC’s interim head coach on Oct. 12 after serving as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. In USC’s 7 games since then (including wins over a pair of Top 25 teams), the Trojans have outrushed opponents in each game (by an average of 263 to 124 yards) and have been plus-9 in turnovers (14 to 5).
Helton, who has been at USC since 2010, has a 6-2 Trojan coaching record. He also served as Troy’s interim head coach in the 2013 Las Vegas Bowl, a victory over Fresno State. At USC, he coached record-setting quarterbacks Matt Barkley and Cody Kessler.
He previously served as an assistant for 10 seasons (2000-09) at Memphis, where he was the Tigers’ interim head coach for several months in early 2006 when head coach Tommie West had off-season heart surgery, as well as 3 years (1997-99) at Houston and 2 years (1995-96) at Duke. His father, Kim, was a longtime assistant coach in college and the NFL, and was head coach at the University of Houston. His brother, Tyson, is a longtime collegiate assistant (currently the offensive coordinator at Western Kentucky). Helton was a quarterback at Auburn (1991-92) and Houston (1993-94), where he played under his father.
Helton and his wife, Angela, have 3 children: sons Reid, 18, and Turner, 12, and daughter Aubrey, 16