USC fires Helton after shocking loss to Stanford
The move comes just days after the Trojans suffered an ugly 42-28 home defeat to Stanford. The Cardinal opened a 42-13 lead midway through the fourth quarter before USC scored two late touchdowns with the game already lost.
Helton, who joined the Trojans in 2010 as the quarterbacks coach, leaves the school with a 46-24 head coaching record.
"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," said USC athletic director Mike Bohn. "We appreciate his many years of service to our university and wish him nothing but the very best. Consistent with our values as an institution, he deserves the utmost respect from the Trojan Family during this transition."
USC leadership was disheartened by what they saw from Helton's team against Stanford, sources told The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, who was also told Helton's squad didn't practice hard or physically enough to develop into an elite team.
The Trojans are unranked on the latest AP Poll despite entering last week as the 14th-best team in the nation.
Helton replaced Steve Sarkisian as USC's head coach midway through the 2015 season. The 49-year-old helped the Trojans win at least 10 games in 2016 and 2017, earning a Pac-12 title in the latter year. However, the team hasn't been able to replicate that success, posting a 19-14 record since.
USC firing a head coach only a few games into the season isn't unusual. The school's last three coaches - Lane Kiffin, Sarkisian, and Helton - were all fired in September or October.
Associate head coach Donte Williams will serve as the Trojans' interim sideline boss for the remainder of the campaign. His first game will come Saturday on the road against Washington State.