USC football coach Clay Helton was paid about $2.6 million during his first season leading the program in 2016, according to the school’s federal tax return for that fiscal year.
Helton coached the Trojans to a Rose Bowl victory over Penn State to end that season with a 10-3 record. In February of this year, he received a contract extension until 2023, but it is unknown if Helton was awarded a pay raise at any point since the 2016 season. As a private institution, USC is not required to divulge the salary information of its employees.
The fiscal period of the most current available tax return covers July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. USC provided the return in response to a request from The Times. Records for the 2017-18 fiscal year were not available.
In 2016, according to a database of college football coaching salaries compiled by USA Today, Helton would have ranked 46th in the country and 11th in the Pac-12. His peers then were Oregon State’s Gary Anderson, Duke’s David Cutcliffe and Vanderbilt’s Derek Mason — none of whom coach at a traditional football power like USC.
Helton’s 2016 salary broke down thusly: base ($2.3 million), bonus and incentives ($30,500), other reportable compensation ($249,530), retirement and other deferred compensation ($26,500) and nontaxable benefits ($51,661).
As a comparison, former USC coach Steve Sarkisian was paid $3.7 million in 2014.
In 2015, former USC athletic director Pat Haden fired Sarkisian and later promoted Helton to head coach after he went 5-2 in an interim role. After USC went 11-3 in 2017, Helton became the first Trojans coach to win at least 10 games his first two seasons.
Haden, according to the 2016 tax return, was paid about $2.8 million during that fiscal year, in which he stepped down as athletic director and remained at USC as a special advisor to the president.