Clay Helton is likely done at USC. After overseeing a 5-7 season, missing a bowl game and wildly underachieving in his third season, most believe Helton will be gone by Monday. [UPDATE: nevermind; USC AD Lynn Swann has announced Clay Helton is staying at USC.]
After leading USC to the Rose Bowl in his first full season and winning the Pac-12 in his second, Helton and his staff have dropped the ball horribly this season. The Trojans have been undisciplined, uninspired and just flat-out bad all year.
With that in mind here’s a look at five candidates USC athletic director Lynn Swann should consider for the job.
James Franklin, Penn State
While it seems crazy, but there is a ton of smoke around this one. James Franklin has a great job at Penn State, but plenty of rumors over the last few weeks have connected him with USC. Maybe his agent is using the Trojans to leverage a big new contract at his current job, but it’s worth addressing anyway.
Franklin took over a terrible Vanderbilt program and made three bowl games while going 24-15 during his time on campus. That included two 9-4 seasons. In 2014, he moved on to Penn State and after two 7-6 seasons, he won the Big Ten in 2016 and went 11-3 after losing an all-time great Rose Bowl against (checks notes…) USC. In 2017 the Nittany Lions went 11-2 and won the Fiesta Bowl. This season they’ve gone 9-3 and overall he’s 45-20 since arriving in State College.
Here’s the thing about Penn State: it’s a phenomenal job, but in the Big Ten East, it’s probably the third best football program. Franklin’s path to a conference title goes through Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State every year. USC is clearly the elite program in the Pac-12 and especially the perennially weak Pac-12 South.
The 46-year-old Franklin is an outstanding, energetic recruiter and has the personality to be a star in Los Angeles. He would be an excellent fit at USC if he’s truly interested in moving on from Penn State.