USC calls all-too-familiar play in naming Helton head coach by Pat Forde | Yahoo Sports — 3 hours ago Nobody from the outside world need apply – as football coach, or as athletic director. If you haven’t already walked the hallowed halls of Heritage Hall, if you haven’t already raised your fingers in a “V” for Victory, if you haven’t already wrapped yourself in the cocoon of cardinal and gold, well, they don’t need you there. It takes a special man to lead the Trojans. And only other Trojans are apparently special enough. That’s the deduction from athletic director Pat Haden (former star Trojan quarterback) hiring Clay Helton (former interim coach and offensive coordinator) as the full-time football coach. Previously, Haden had hired Steve Sarkisian (former USC offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll). Prior to that, Haden’s predecessor as athletic director, Mike Garrett (former star Trojan running back), had hired Lane Kiffin (former USC offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll). Neither of those previous hires worked out very well. Kiffin was fired early in his fourth season, and Sarkisian was dismissed early in his second. But if you think that would stop the University of Self Congratulation from continuing to select leaders from within its own league of extraordinary gentlemen, you’re mistaken. Let it be said that Clay Helton may end up being the right guy at the right time at USC. He seems to be very popular with the current players, and he’s done a solid job keeping the team together and winning the Pac-12 South. So it would be unfair to presume the Helton hire will end as spectacularly badly as the Kiffin and Sarkisian hires. But it’s a big world out there, filled with lots of smart football coaches who likely would love a shot at a Cadillac program like USC’s. The school’s continued reliance upon the same small pool of guys connected to the school is amazing and a little unsettling. At the very least, nobody does insular like USC. For a university with a global reach academically, the football reach doesn’t even extend off campus. Presumably, Haden arrived at this decision to retain Helton in consultation with his right-hand man in the athletic department, J.K. McKay. Haden threw passes to McKay at USC in the 1970s, when both men played for J.K.’s father, John. When Haden came back to save the department from the messy state in which Garrett left it, he brought J.K. with him. J.K. McKay has a young son named Haden. Fight on. And on and on and on. USC is the best at winning the nostalgia derby, but the on-field winning hasn’t followed. The last time USC won big was the last time it thought big – at least big enough to get beyond its own lineage and tradition and the 90089 zip code. The school hired Carroll, a former NFL washout, in 2001. He succeeded former Trojans assistant Paul Hackett, who in 1998 had succeeded John Robinson – who already had been the head coach at USC once, from 1976-82. That inbred enough for you? Carroll, of course, was a smashing success (other than the NCAA violations that occurred during his tenure). USC won the AP national title in 2003 and the BCS national championship in ’04, played for the title in ’05 and won 11 or more games for seven straight seasons. But now Carroll has spawned his own version of the McKay Era nostalgia addiction at the school. First it was Kiffin, then it was Sarkisian. Now, in a two-degrees-of-separation hire, it’s the guy who came to USC as an assistant to Kiffin and was retained by Sark. Helton has gone 5-2 since replacing Sarkisian, who was ignominiously fired following alcohol-related issues early in the season. Saturday, Helton did one thing neither Sark nor Kiffin had done – he beat Jim Mora. The UCLA coach had been 3-0 against USC, and Helton handed Mora a whipping with the Pac-12 South title on the line. Helton also handed Utah its first loss of the season. But he lost to Notre Dame and Oregon, too. Thus a Trojans team expected to compete for the national title sits at 8-4. Yet if they beat Stanford on Saturday in the Pac-12 title game, USC will go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2008. Before watching their in-house hire lead the team in that game, Pat Haden and J.K. McKay could go down to the field and reminisce about their playing days there as Trojans, and the entire fan base can wrap itself in the comfortable shawl of nostalgia once again. At the University of Self Congratulation, that never seems to get old.