The 2018 USC football season is officially over. The Trojans finished 5-7 overall and will look to bounce back in 2019. Here is all you need to know about this season:
Helton will return in 2019
Following the loss to Notre Dame, USC fans watched the fate of head coach Clay Helton closely. On Sunday, USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann put out a statement announcing Helton's return for the 2019 season.
The statement reads in part, "Let me be clear to everyone, our players, our recruits, and our fans. Clay Helton is our head coach and will continue to be our head coach."
Prior to Saturday's game, a banner flew high above USC's campus and the Coliseum. It read, "Lynn Swann – please fire Clay Helton."
The banner was one of many gestures by fans calling for the removal of Helton. In previous instances, fans have brought signs to games and booed.
"I love our fans' passion about USC football," read the final line of Swann's statement. "They have high standards, as do we."
Following the news, Helton issued his own statement, "I am very appreciative of the support that Mr. Swann and the USC Administration has given our team over the last three seasons, as well as the trust and belief they have in our future."
The statement goes on to note Helton's desire to create a disciplined football team. The 2018 USC team averaged eight penalties per game for a total of 96 yards. Only seven teams fared worse than USC.
"Our number one goal is to win championships and we will not be satisfied with anything less," Helton's statement concludes.
USC's 5-7 record means they will not be eligible for a bowl game for the first time in a non-probation year since the 2000 season. In 2000, with Paul Hackett at the helm, USC ended 5-7. Following a loss to Notre Dame, Hackett was fired and would later be replaced by Pete Carroll. USC was banned from appearing in bowl games in the 2010 and 2011 seasons following sanctions imposed by the NCAA. USC finished 8-5 and 10-2 in those years.
"USC is about championships," Helton said. "[USC] deserves championships. We did not do that."
The lack of a bowl game is a departure from the recent success of the program. In Helton's first full season as a head coach, USC competed in the Rose Bowl. The team led by former quarterback Sam Darnold defeated Penn State 52-49 in a thrilling showdown. Last year, USC bested Stanford to win the Pac-12 championship. The victory earned USC a berth in the Cotton Bowl, where they fell to Ohio State 7-24.
Following the Cotton Bowl, Helton signed a contract extension that would take him through the 2023 season.
"Helton has shown that he can lead our team with integrity and stability and that he has the ability to win conference and national championships," Swann said after Helton signed the extension.
Notre Dame finished their season undefeated and will likely enter the College Football Playoff as the No. 3 team.
Since 1962, USC has had just four losing seasons. Helton is the third USC coach to return following such a season. The exception was Hackett.
Despite the disappointing season, Helton believes that the team can compete.
"We can compete with anybody in the country with the men that are in that locker room as evidenced by tonight," Helton said after the loss to Notre Dame.
In his first two seasons, Helton led the team to 10-3 and 11-3 finishes. Helton is the only coach in Trojan history to win 10 games in his first two seasons.
The Trojans have now lost three home games in a row, starting with a loss to Arizona State on Oct. 27. Before that losing spell, USC had a 19-0 undefeated streak under Helton.
USC's matchup with Notre Dame drew 59,851 spectators to the Coliseum. The crowd is the smallest showing for the rivalry since 1960, when only 28,297 fans showed up due to half an inch of rain falling in Los Angeles.
The Trojans were unable to crack 60,000 attendees or more in their six home games this season.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Rams, who share the Coliseum with USC, have been able to draw 60,000 or more fans on a consistent basis. The Rams average home game attendance is 72,178.
Prior to the start of the game, USC honored the 24 seniors and redshirt juniors that will be departing the team. Such seniors included Ajene Harris, Iman Marshall, Cameron Smith and Porter Gustin.
The full list of departing seniors can be found here.