Lynn Swann let it be known Thursday that anything less than a conference title for USC will be seen as a disappointing season for head coach Clay Helton.
"The expectation is that we're going to win the Pac-12 championship," the athletic director said, according to ESPN's Edward Aschoff. "We want to be in the picture and the conversation about the national championship, on the national scene. That's where it starts.
"We're not going to get there if we're not winning our own conference, so we're going to make that step and move it forward that way. Clay knows that. Clay knows that's always the first goal and move it forward from that point."
The Trojans are coming off a tumultuous five-win campaign that led to much speculation over Helton's job security. Despite calls for a change atop the football program, Swann brought the embattled Helton back for his fourth full season.
"I have confidence in everybody who's out there," Swann said. "Clay's not going to do it by himself. He's got a great coaching staff, people he feels comfortable with. They've got to give the kids a great game plan, give them the confidence, give them the tools to be able to go out and execute and play great football. We're looking forward to it.
"You've got a lot of young men who played on that team last year who have a bad taste in their mouth. You hear Clay talk about that all the time - leaving that bad taste in your mouth and wanting to get rid of it. They want to get back and prove that they're better athletes and a better team than they were last year."
USC has won its conference just once since 2011, when the Pac-10 added two schools to become the Pac-12. Helton was the head coach of that conference-winning team, which surged to the top of the Pac-12 in 2017.