Southern Cal fires football coach Clay Helton after upset loss to Stanford

The Clay Helton era at Southern Cal went out with a whimper.

Trojans athletic director Mike Bohn informed the football head coach Monday that he was out after USC opened the Pac-12 Conference portion of its season with a 42-28 loss to rival Stanford. USC had opened its season by defeating San Jose State 30-7.

"This season is just getting started, and we have an opportunity to do something special with this team and program," Bohn wrote in a statement that announced his decision. 

Bohn named associate head coach Donte Williams, in his second year on USC's staff, as the interim coach. 

"Clay is one of the finest human beings I have met in this industry, and he has been a tremendous role model and mentor to our young men," wrote Bohn, who arrived from Cincinnati in 2019.

He now has the chance to pick his own coach to lead the football program. 

Before receiving the full-time job in 2015, Helton twice served as the interim coach – once after then-interim coach Ed Orgeron resigned and again after Steve Sarkisian took a leave of absence. 

Sep 4, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA;   USC Trojans head coach Clay Helton on the sidelines in the first half of the game against the San Jose State Spartans at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

USC, under former athletic director Pat Haden, removed the interim tag at the end of the 2015 regular season. Helton went 46-24 at USC, highlighted by a Rose Bowl victory to cap the 2016 season. The Trojans' best year under Helton came the following season, when they went 11-3, won the Pac-12 and ultimately lost in the Cotton Bowl. 

Williams, who had recent stints coaching the cornerbacks at Oregon (2018-19) and Nebraska (2017), has no head coaching experience at the FBS level but has established himself as a premier recruiter, especially in Southern California. 

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.