Football

Clay Helton hired at Georgia Southern University

Less than two months after being fired from USC, Helton is once again a head coach.

Clay Helton at a press conference

Georgia Southern University announced Tuesday the hiring of Clay Helton as the new head coach of its football program. This news comes less than two months after Helton was fired from USC on Sept. 13. Former Georgia Southern head coach Chad Lunsford was fired on Sept. 26.

Lunsford, who had coached at Georgia Southern since 2017, was fired after a 1-3 start to the 2021 season. Lunsford held a 28-21 overall record since 2017, while Helton went 46-24 since 2015.

Helton joined the USC coaching staff in 2010 as quarterbacks coach, then became interim head coach midway through the 2015 season after the firing of Steve Sarkisian. Helton landed the official head coach role on Nov. 30, 2015.

Prior to his time at USC, Helton coached at Duke, Houston and Memphis. Helton was the first USC head coach to secure two 10-win seasons in his first two full seasons. However, following a Pac-12 Championship in 2017, the program saw a sharp decline, with 12 losses in the following two seasons. The Trojans’ blowout home loss against Stanford early in the 2021 season led to the prompt release of Helton from the program.

Helton said he is excited for the opportunity to coach Georgia Southern.

“I am very humbled to be named the head football coach at Georgia Southern University,” Helton said. “We will have a staff and a team representing the toughness, discipline and GATA mentality on which this program was founded. I cannot wait to get started to build a football program that is consistently winning championships and is the platinum standard of college football on a national scale.”

Georgia Southern Athletic Director Jared Benko praised Helton in his hiring announcement.

“Clay is renowned for not only his coaching abilities but for the person that he is. He’s an elite offensive mind who has produced record-setting offenses and high NFL Draft picks everywhere he’s coached,” Benko said. “During this interview process, Clay demonstrated a thorough understanding of what it takes to be not only to be a head coach but to win at an elite level and he is the best choice to lead our football program here at Georgia Southern.”

Georgia Southern interim coach Kevin Whitley will finish out the 2021 season before Helton takes over.