USC coach Clay Helton hires a key new piece of his staff away from Notre Dame

USC players enter the Coliseum before the Pac-12 title game against Oregon on Dec. 18, 2020, in Los Angeles.
USC players run onto the field at the Coliseum before the Pac-12 title game against Oregon on Dec. 18.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

As Notre Dame propelled its way to the College Football Playoff in two of the last three years, its strength and conditioning staff was routinely singled out by players and coaches as the driving force behind the program’s turnaround.

That success was not lost on one of its most bitter rivals. On Saturday, USC hired Robert Stiner, Notre Dame’s assistant director of strength and conditioning, to take over the same program, which it believed wasn’t up to par over the last two seasons.

USC chose this month not to renew the contract of Aaron Ausmus, who spent the last two seasons at the helm of the Trojans’ strength and conditioning program. Ausmus previously led the program for four seasons under coach Lane Kiffin before returning for a second stint in 2019.


USC averaged fewer than 100 yards rushing per game in 2020, its lowest total since 2001. Running backs coach Mike Jinks knows the Trojans have to get better.

Jan. 15, 2021

Stiner, 35, spent the previous three seasons at Notre Dame working under acclaimed strength coach Matt Balis as the Irish finished 33-5 and had several players succeed at the NFL scouting combine.

Before the Irish, Stiner worked for one season as the assistant director of football performance at Cincinnati, where Mike Bohn was athletic director.

“His knowledge and passion for developing student-athletes to reach their full potential is well recognized by his peers and has made him a highly respected coach in the field,” USC coach Clay Helton said in a statement. “The system he brings has helped produce teams that compete and thrive at the highest level of college football, and we are confident he will make an immediate impact on our program and student athletes.”

That system certainly worked at Notre Dame, where Irish coach Brian Kelly revamped the program’s strength and conditioning staff after a 4-8 finish in 2016. That’s when Stiner, who also worked at Florida International, Central Arkansas and Mississippi State, was hired.

Stiner is the third strength and conditioning coach in four seasons for USC, which hired Ausmus in 2019 to replace Ivan Lewis, who left to lead the Seattle Seahawks’ strength and conditioning staff.

USC still has one opening left to fill on its staff, an offensive line coach.