Every college football observer with at least one working eye or ear could tell that Clay Helton had some tough hills to climb this season to remain head coach of the USC Trojans moving forward. That issue is now moot. So far this season, the Trojans have barely scraped by a half-strength Fresno State squad, and on Saturday, they proved that their 2-0 start was little more than a fluke with a 30-27 overtime loss to BYU.
Now Helton’s seat is hotter than ever. With his closest backer, Lynn Swann, having resigned earlier this week at USC AD, and an even tougher stretch of conference opponents and a rivalry game against last year’s playoff team, Notre Dame, coming up, Helton may want to start printing up copies of his resume.
Meanwhile, here are some resumes that the Trojans may want to look at as his replacement.
Bob Stoops – Soon to be: Coach/GM, Dallas Renegades (XFL 2020)
Stoops – who, incidentally, the Trojans victimized for their last national championship on New Year’s Day 2005 – has been out of coaching since 2017. He is currently occupied as the general manager of Dallas’ team in the upcoming XFL revival. However, on Clay Travis’ radio program, he said he wouldn’t completely rule out a return to coaching in the college game.
It’s a long-shot, but given how the XFL went last time, if a team offered enough money, Stoops might want a way out of the uncertainty of Vince McMahon’s revival – even if it meant burning some bridges along the way.
Urban Meyer – Currently: FOX College Football analyst
Remember, Urban Meyer “retired” (well, technically resigned) once before, and don’t forget how long that stuck. Earlier this month, he dropped a hint that he may pull a Brett Favre and un-retire once again.
In an interview with Cleveland.com, when questioned about a possible return to coaching in 2020, he said, “I’m not there at the moment. Next year, can I say that? We’ll talk again next year and we’ll see.” If he does return, wherever he ends up, FOX’s pregame show will certainly miss him.
Mark Richt – Currently: ACC Network analyst
The college football world was taken by surprise when Mark Richt suddenly retired from his job at Miami (FL). While Richt’s third and final season was a disappointment on many levels, what he accomplished with the Hurricanes cannot be overstated. In 2016, he took a dysfunctional, underachieving program fresh off the disastrous Al Golden era and led them to their first 10-win season since 2003. Trojan fans know they need a coach who can perform that kind of magic now, and Richt’s 171-64 record speaks for itself.
James Franklin – Currently: Penn State head coach
Franklin’s contract at Penn State doesn’t run out until 2022, but that still hasn’t stopped “Franklin-to-USC” rumors from spreading ever since late last season. Franklin has been quick to deny all of them, but it’s also intriguing to note that Franklin would only face a $1,000,000 buyout clause from Penn State were he to take another head coaching job.
Graham Harrell – Currently: USC offensive coordinator
There’s a 50-50 chance that Helton will not survive the season, and in most cases, that would mean promoting a coach from the assistant ranks to fill the gap. In this case, the best candidate would be Harrell, as his unit at least gave the Trojans a chance against BYU on Saturday. A head coaching role could give Harrell more time to nurture freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, a work in progress whose arm kept the Trojans in the game this week, but whose rookie mistakes cost them at the very end.