At the end of a whirlwind day, amid conflicting reports about his fate, Clay Helton remains USC’s head football coach ... for now.
While decisions to fire coaches were made across college football on Sunday — from Ole Miss to Texas to South Florida — USC remained silent as rampant speculation over its coach’s future ensued, leaving fans and boosters restless and Helton’s fate still uncertain.
Multiple people familiar with the situation confirmed to The Times on Sunday that no decision has been made on the embattled Trojans coach. But the fact that Helton’s status has yet to change, following the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday, does not indicate that Helton is officially safe.
A report on Sunday morning from Sports Illustrated first suggested that a decision had been made to fire Helton. But that report was quickly — and passionately — refuted by USC, before a cascade of other national reporters chimed in to call its legitimacy into question, one of which happened to be a fellow Sports Illustrated reporter.
USC’s director of player development Gavin Morris noted on Twitter that the reporter was “just making stuff up.”
“It’s that season of, let’s just make stuff up,” Morris wrote.
But in the absence of any decision, fans were left to speculate as to why USC’s new leadership was dragging its feet, even after the team was officially eliminated from Pac-12 title-game contention this weekend.
New athletic director Mike Bohn had previously suggested that news on Helton’s fate might not come as swiftly as some fans hoped. He told The Times less than two weeks ago that a decision was “something we don’t want to race into.”
“We’re not on a specific timeline that would do anything to jeopardize momentum or opportunities that exist, regardless of what those are,” Bohn said then.
With an idle week at the end of the regular season and only the bowl game ahead, many believed that a decision was imminent as Utah’s division-clinching victory over Colorado on Saturday night left USC without any tangible momentum or opportunities remaining this season.
Helton went about business as usual on Sunday. He spent part of the afternoon at the home of four-star receiver commit Joshua Jackson, who then tweeted a photo of his family with Helton and receivers coach Keary Colbert.
That night, on the team’s usual day off, a team meeting was called at 5:30 p.m., leaving many to wonder again if an announcement might be made. But the meeting, which had already been planned the previous week, was brief.
USC’s players, none of whom were made available for comment, were told only to continue going about their normal routine, with answers to be provided soon, according to a person close to the situation.
For everyone else left to sift through message-board conspiracies and conflicting reports surrounding USC and its uncertain coaching situation, even that degree of clarity remained elusive on Sunday.