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Report: Eric Bieniemy will emerge as candidate to replace Clay Helton at USC [UPDATE]

After seven seasons, it finally happened. The USC alum and longtime assistant will no longer be at Heritage Hall.

Head coach Clay Helton of USC Trojans reacts as Kedon Slovis comes off the field to punt on fourth down during the first quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on September 11, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

UPDATE: Sept. 14th, 4:40 p.m. Kansas City Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy will emerge as a candidate to replace Helton at USC, per Adam Schefter.

USC Trojans athletic director Mike Bohn has fired head football coach Clay Helton after seven underwhelming seasons in Los Angeles. After a loss to Pac-12 rival Stanford in Pasadena, Helton was officially on the hot seat again and this time, the Trojans finally made the move.

The Trojans lost 42-28 to the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday night as a two-touchdown favorite. Stanford itself was coming off a brutal showing in Week 1 in a loss to Kansas State, but found a way to bully USC all night.

Helton finishes his career at USC 46-24, somehow lasting a seventh season with the program despite constant questions about his job and the trajectory USC was on. He did have two seasons with double-digit wins early in his tenure resulting in a Pac-12 conference title, but failed to take USC to the College Football Playoff and a national title. That’s the expectations for a program of USC’s stature, as outlined by Bohn. Helton consistently fell short of those expectations since the 2018 season.

Potential replacements include some of the biggest names in college football for what is possibly the most glamorous job in the sport. A return of Lane Kiffin after stints as an assistant at Alabama, a successful run with two conference championships at FAU, and having an Ole Miss program on the right track will be speculated about. But Kiffin was once famously fired on an airport tarmac, and there might still be lingering bitterness on either side.

It’s not unreasonable to think an NFL coach would drop down to take the position either, though former ‘SC head coach Pete Carroll might not want to head back at age 69. Central Florida head coach Gus Malzahn might not be a cultural fit and doesn’t have many ties to the west coast or California recruiting, but he’s also likely available and has high-major winning on his resume.

There are few jobs in college football that will draw more interest, especially with the recently improved football facilities at USC. We’ll see who ends up taking the position.

Associate head coach and defensive backs coach Donte Williams, who has experience at schools such as Arizona, Nebraska, and Oregon, has been named interim head coach. Williams joined the USC staff in 2020.