The University of Southern California announced Monday it has hired Clay Helton as permanent head coach of the football team.
The 24th-ranked Trojans (8-4, 5-3 Pac-12) beat archrival UCLA 40-21 to win the Pac-12 South title on Saturday, capping a seven-week surge under Helton, their interim head coach, with their first victory in the crosstown showdown since 2011.
USC advanced to the conference championship game against No. 7 Stanford and the chance to contend for a Rose Bowl berth — something that seemed highly improbable last month when athletic director Pat Haden fired Steve Sarkisian and promoted Helton to finish up a turbulent season for the second time in three years.
"After weeks of searching the collegiate and pro ranks, interviewing candidates, and speaking with head coaches, athletic directors, NFL executives, and very knowledgeable football people, and after observing Clay in action the past seven weeks, it became abundantly clear that what we were searching for in a coach was right here in front of us," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement. "Clay Helton is the right man at the right time for the USC football program."
reward for that combination of success and stability is one of the most coveted jobs in college football.
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"I totally understand that I am not a flashy name, but I don't want to be flashy," said Helton, who is in his first full-time head coaching job. "I never have been, and never will be."
Haden said Helton signed a five-year deal, and beating UCLA was not the reason he was hired.
"He was not hired because many current and former players voiced their support for him. And he was not hired because he is a Trojan. He is our choice because we believe he can win Pac-12 and national championships here. Clay Helton is the right man at the right time for the USC football program," Haden said.
Helton, 43, was named USC's interim head coach on Oct. 12 after serving as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Helton has been at USC since 2010. Previously, he was an assistant coach at Memphis for 10 seasons.
"During my six years here, I have learned the standard of excellence that it takes to be a Trojan. I understand the expectations of this great university and welcome the challenge. I am so proud to have the chance to lead what I feel is the pinnacle of college football and to represent our Trojan Family," Helton said.
The move and the timing were surprising, but not a total shock.
There had been rumors and speculation that USC would make an attempt to lure Eagles coach Chip Kelly back to the Pac-12. Kelly helped turn USC rival Oregon into a national power before leaving for the NFL three years ago.