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USC coach Clay Helton fires assistants Clancy Pendergast and John Baxter

When Clay Helton learned nearly a month ago that he would be retained as USC’s football coach, he delayed a decision on whether to keep his coordinators. He wanted to keep the focus on the bowl season.

But after that focus failed the Trojans in their Friday night finale, as the defense came apart and the special teams stumbled again in a 49-24 Holiday Bowl defeat to Iowa, Helton took fewer than 24 hours to fire Clancy Pendergast, his defensive coordinator, and John Baxter, his special teams coach.

The decision had long been expected, as USC’s defense dealt with constant inconsistency in recent seasons. Its special teams had its own issues, finishing this season last in college football in kickoff return coverage.

A season after he replaced his offensive coordinator in search of a new identity on that end, Helton now faces the prospect of rebuilding a defense that had declined for four straight seasons during Pendergast’s tenure.

Pendergast was hired in 2016, after Helton fired Justin Wilcox, the future California head coach, from the position.

Baxter had worked at USC since 2010, when Helton was first hired as an assistant.

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