USC–In Crisis–At Crossroads”
USC Trojans football is in search of glory days in the future, still believing they can reinvent the program to what it used to be.
Clay Helton was fired late Tuesday afternoon, 48-hours after a horrible loss to the Stanford Cardinal and a week after they struggled against woeful San Jose State.
This coming on top of last year’s failure in the Pac 12-championship game, the loss to Oregon.
This coupled with the nearly 7-years of unrest from Alumni, the fans, the media, that he was never the right guy for the position.
But how many right guys have sat in the head coaches office at Heritage Hall since the 1960s?
The legendary John McKay. The brash John Robinson. The smarter-than-smart Pete Carroll.
McKay was in a different era. Robinson was a key assistant at Oregon. Carroll was a failed NFL head coach. All were brilliant, but that is over a 60-year window of Trojans football.
USC gave us strange hires, weak hires, leap and hope hires, with very little success.
Favorite son Ed Ogeron did not get the job after taking over on an interim basis. Yes he had the sparkling one season at LSU, but look where they have drifted back to.
Steve Sarkisian failed badly, dragging baggage and alcohol bottles with him to the campus. Now he’s at Texas, but two weeks into the job, just lost to SEC-also ran Arkansas.
Lane Kiffin was cut from a different cloth, and it is hard to get a true read on if he can build a dynasty. He is the shiny new object at Ole Miss, but let’s wait and see a bigger picture of success when he plays Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma and others.
Fight On football has also given us Ted Tollner, Paul Hackett, Larry Smith and others, so the science of giving the right guys the keys to what was a legendary program is so spotty.
Where does Mike Bohn, the Athletic Director, go to find the next coach?
Luke Fickell has done a great job at Cincinnati and could guide the Bearcats into the Big 12-Conference. Would he leave, considering he is an Ohio State Buckeyes grad, and that always seemed to be he place he would go home to. This would be a sexy hire out of state.
Greg Schiano brings a track record of success at Rutgers, but a record of failure other places. An East Coast guy with an old school approach, but he has no West Coast ties and he just restarted the Scarlet Knights program.
James Franklin at Penn State has had good years and not so good years. A strong personality, but then again, not a former Trojan, and State College, Pennsylvania is a long way from Los Angeles.
Chris Peterson may be the most unique candidate, based on success at Boise State and then in a brief run at Washington, before he burned out. He can recruit, runs dynamic offenses, but does he want back into the grind?
Matt Campbell has put Iowa State’s Cyclones into the rankings, but he just signed a somewhat lifetime contract to stay in Ames.
There are veteran coaches out there USC should canvas, including legendary Bob Stoops from Oklahoma, who won, recruited and knew how to deal with the big-cigar boosters of successful programs. But he walked away from the Sooners so it begs the question does he want to really do this again?
Bill O’Brien is an assistant with the Patriots. His run as the NFL-Houston Texans coach blewup in controversy about racial issues and roster moves. A pretty big political guy, who rebuilt Penn State in the post Joe Paterno era, but had issues there too.
If this were a year ago today, Urban Meyer would have been at the top of everyone’s list, based on what he did from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida to Ohio State. Now he’s in the early days of sampling NFL football with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A most unique name who has to be considered is Brian Kelly, the fire-and-ice coach who did it at tiny Central Michigan…then Cincinnati and now at Notre Dame. Would he ever consider this? Won’t know if you don’t call.
Closer to home, a bold move might be David Shaw, who has done more with less resources at Stanford. He has rebuffed overtures from the NFL, but would he go to a have and leave a have-not in terms of resources.
And then there is a reach of a name like John Gruden, he of Tampa Bay success, but Raiders failure. He loves offense. Has charisma. And his name is still a neon light attraction. Never say ever.
The expectations around Heritage Hall seem so absurd. Washington’s Huskies replaced USC as a power. Oregon replaced UW then. UCLA is trying to gain traction under Chip Kelly, who is (12-21) in Westwood.
Pete Carroll came out of nowhere, the NFL unemployment line, to put together an amazing (63-5) stretch of bowl runs with great problems tied like a tin can to his tail as he left to go to the Seattle Seahawks..
SC has been plagued by quarterback defections, and raided annually by the NFL draft. So it is not the same job nor program status as it was once upon a time, even if the big supporters don’t understand that, and are living in yesteryear.
Helton had 10 and 11-win seasons, but was not dominant and often drifted into mediocrity.
If I were King Trojan, I’d go after Fickell…Shaw…Kelly and Peterson. USC needs a recognizable name with a track record of having done it somewhere else. Their sales pitch should be about Trojan’s football royalty
Let the interviews and rumors begin.
USC is about to begin a modern day version of “Fight On” to hire the right coach now that the winning but unpopular Clay Helton is gone.