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CoachLine USC: Will Clay Helton Follow the Path of other USC Football Exes?

On Tuesday former USC football coach Clay Helton became the head coach at Georgia Southern. While Helton’s firing was met with cheers by the Trojan faithful they were never out of malice towards the man himself. No one can say anything bad about Helton as a person and we like what he stands for, but it was clear he was no longer the guy for USC. I’m sure many Trojan fans will be like me and root for him to have future success.

The good news for Helton is that there is precedent for him to succeed in his post USC life. USC is bad at breakups. They’ve done it publicly, ruthlessly, and completely unorganized. USC is first-team all-american when it comes to burning bridges. The problem is when you leave these guys out to dry it only motivates them to prove you wrong later.

Here are all the exes to get the better of USC.

Ed Orgeron

To say Ed Orgeron was pissed after being passed over for the head-coaching job at USC would be an understatement. He left the McKay center the day of the announcement, resigning before completing his successful interim season. He laid low as a defensive line coach at LSU before being elevated to interim coach again after Les Miles was fired. This time he got the job and along with it a chance to rub it in USC’s face. And he sure did. In 2019 he put together a perfect 15-0 championship season along with his quarterback winning the Heisman.

Lane Kiffin

After Lane Kiffin was fired on a tarmac he was the butt of every joke. Now, he’s embracing the joke. Kiffin has become a caricature of himself but in a good way. It’s strategic and it’s successful. He’s a college football must-see personality. He’s savvy on social media, he’s quotable, and he makes being a head coach look like fun. Getting his ego crushed by USC was the best thing that ever happened to him. It led to a national title as Alabama’s offensive coordinator, two double digit win seasons as a Group of 5 head coach and the top job at one of the SEC’s premier programs. Not a bad rebound.

Steve Sarkisian

Steve Sarkisian’s firing at USC was one of the ugliest. It dealt with substance abuse and was wrapped around a giant lawsuit. Another moment of a coach hitting rock bottom after his time at USC. He came back to big-time coaching in 2017 by accepting the offensive coordinator position with the Atlanta Falcons. He had mild success there but was eventually fired. After leaving the NFL he followed in the footsteps of his friend Lane Kiffin and took the offensive coordinator job at Alabama. In 2020 he led a prolific offense at Bama that won the national championship with the help of Heisman trophy winner DeVonta Smith. That success landed him a cool 6 year $34.2 million contract as the head coach at Texas.

At a certain point, USC is going to have to realize that maybe the problems with their coaching relationships stem from within and not the coaches. It’s clear that all three coaches above used their dysfunctional time at USC to grow and improve themselves. But what’s gotten better at USC? How has USC improved? These are the problems Mike Bohn will have to solve. He’s going to have to, or he and his next coach won’t be lasting long.

Former USC Head Coach Clay Helton During Fall Camp. Photo Credit: John McGillen/USC Athletics

Former USC Head Coach Clay Helton During Fall Camp. Photo Credit: John McGillen/USC Athletics

George Dulcich

Author George Dulcich

George Dulcich is a stand-up comedian and Los Angeles sports fanatic from Glendale, California. He graduated from USC in 2018 but also as of recent has a close connection with UCLA if you can figure it out. George never took an NFL team growing up instead vowing to wait for a franchise to return to Los Angeles. The Chargers came a little too late and now the Rams’ House is his house. Besides football George can be found practicing bits on stage or proudly wearing the checkered uniform of the Croatian national soccer team. You can find George on Twitter @GeorgeDulcich

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