In his practically two years as USC’s athletic director, Mike Bohn has seen the Coliseum stuffed with followers only one time. It was late November 2019. He’d been on the job two weeks then, watching intently as USC beat UCLA. Just a few months later, the tenor of that job would change dramatically.
Bohn’s tenure has since been marked by empty stadiums and cardboard followers, pandemic protocols and PCR assessments, county well being directors and fixed, crippling uncertainty, all amid a backdrop of landscape-altering adjustments to the very mannequin of school sports activities.
These ripples are ongoing. The pandemic lingers on. Earlier this week, Los Angeles County moved to mandate masks at out of doors mega occasions, which incorporates USC soccer video games. The specter of additional gameday adjustments, together with vaccination necessities, looms as COVID-19 circumstances proceed to rise, simply two weeks earlier than the season.
However amid the unanswerable inquiries and unsolvable quandaries related to the pandemic and the approaching soccer season, the query of Clay Helton’s standing as USC’s head coach has remained a continuing for the reason that final time followers flooded the concourse of the Coliseum.
Practically all the pieces round Helton has modified within the meantime. His teaching employees was rebuilt. The recruiting operation was retooled. The infrastructure of the soccer program was modernized, from the beefed-up assist employees to the brand new in-house artistic studio.
That progress is unimpeachable, and as Bohn and his chief of employees Brandon Sosna met with reporters Thursday forward of the season, each had been comfortable to level to it as proof their course of is working. However as a lot has modified round their embattled head soccer coach, the pertinent query now’s what it can take, of their eyes, for Helton to carry up his finish of the cut price?
Neither was about to set any bars or provide any ultimatums. However when requested if it was honest to characterize the upcoming season as make-or-break for Helton, Bohn mentioned he didn’t suppose that was correct.
“We acknowledge the development in this system and all of the various things we’re doing,” Bohn mentioned. “Our trajectory is powerful.”
That path led the Trojans to a 5-1 end and a Pac-12 title sport loss final December. Since, USC has signed a top-10 recruiting class and launched a major operation on title, picture and likeness, providing tangible proof that lots of the investments made by Bohn and his division are paying off.
The truth that these adjustments had been made amid the circumstances of a pandemic make all of them the extra spectacular. However they nonetheless aren’t sufficient to satiate a pissed off fan base hellbent on seeing Helton’s ouster.
“Clearly, we’re dedicated to profitable,” Bohn mentioned when requested in regards to the equity of followers’ frustration. “And I feel that our investments and the issues that we’ve executed that we mentioned we’d do, we’ve delivered on and we’re going to proceed to do this. So we’re gonna do all the pieces we are able to to make sure that we are able to entice the kind of assist that may play a major position in serving to us.”
Ever since his arrival, Bohn has been requested repeatedly about these expectations. He assures his personal haven’t modified.
“We need to be within the Rose Bowl and being part of that Faculty Soccer Playoff,” Bohn mentioned.
“These are our targets, and also you consider the place we had been earlier than the ’19 season, we had been ranked forty seventh, forty eighth, forty ninth, someplace proper in there, and we ended up twenty eighth. The next 12 months, via COVID, we had been ranked 17 and we ended up 17, and this 12 months we’re ranked 15 to start out the season, so we’re making progress.”
It’s unclear the place that bar is ready forward of Helton’s seventh season as USC’s coach. He nonetheless has three years remaining on his contract, which was prolonged in 2018.
However the main hindrances Helton outlined to Bohn and Sosna early on of their tenure have, by and enormous, been addressed.
On Sosna’s desk, he nonetheless retains two Submit-it Notes from their first conferences with the coach, stuffed with points they got down to deal with inside the program. Every thing from recruiting to assist employees to different organizational particulars.
“I feel we’ve checked off virtually each single a kind of bins,” Sosna mentioned.
The Submit-its are a reminder of how a lot they’ve been in a position to change in a short while.
However as one other soccer season approaches and followers put together to fill the stands, it’s as much as Helton to verify off the ultimate, most elusive field.
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Instances.