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An update on the timing of USC's Clay Helton decision

USC's regular season ends Saturday, which presents an interesting conundrum for freshly-hired AD Mike Bohn.

The Trojans' regular season ends Saturday after their crosstown rivalry game with UCLA. The game kicks at 12:30 local time which means, theoretically, if USC is looking to fire Helton and get a jump start on the public phase of its coaching search, the Trojans could have an opening as soon as, say, 4:30 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday.

And yet, thanks to a win over Utah back on Sept. 20, the Trojans are still very much alive to win the Pac-12 South. If USC beats UCLA on Saturday, a Utah loss at Arizona this Saturday or versus Colorado on Nov. 30 would send the Trojans to San Francisco to meet Oregon for the Pac-12 title.

This means it's theoretically possible that USC fires its head coach, and then plays the Pac-12 Championship and the Rose Bowl with an interim coach.

Likely? Absolutely not. But it's possible.

Will any of that happen? Bohn isn't saying.

“Any time you’re a part of a significant enterprise in something that so many people are invested in, it’s something we don’t want to race into,” Bohn told the Los Angeles Times. “We’re not on a specific timeline that would do anything to jeopardize momentum or opportunities that exist, regardless of what those are. Revealing any type of timeline or plan at this point would be premature and probably inappropriate.”

It would be quite awkward for USC to fire Helton and then turn around and make the Pac-12 Championship, so Bohn could very well wait for Utah's regular season to end to make a decision on Helton.

Helton's eventual ouster has been the worst-kept secret in college football ever since Lynn Swann retained him after USC's 5-7 season in 2018, and Bohn has kept his cards superglued to his chest ever since his hiring. The closest he's come to addressing Helton directly came in when he said "good teams finish strong" at his introductory press conference earlier this month.

A win over UCLA puts Helton at 3-0 with Bohn on campus and 5-1 to close the season.

“The way they’ve responded these last couple weeks, dealing with so many injuries and overcoming some adversity, he’s been able to keep poised and keep his team focused,” Bohn told the Times. “I respect that.”

A decision on Helton's future is coming, and it's still more likely than not that he's replaced after this season. You simply don't nudge out the AD who went against the grain by retaining your football coach, and then hire a new AD to then turn around and keep that same football coach.

But the timing of that decision is up to Utah, not USC.

As always, stay tuned to The Scoop for the latest.