November 26, 2018 / 4:41 AM / 19 days ago

College football notebook: Helton keeps job at USC

Southern California football coach Clay Helton will return in 2019, despite widespread speculation he would be fired following a year that saw the Trojans win only five games and fail to qualify for a bowl berth.

Nov 24, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; General overall view of the line of scrimmage as Southern California Trojans long snapper Damon Johnson (59) prepares to snap the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Trojans (5-7) concluded the season with a 24-17 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday night.

Helton was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2015 but became interim coach in October of that season after USC fired Steve Sarkisian. Six weeks later, he became the permanent coach and signed a five-year contract.

The Trojans finished 10-3 in 2016, capped by a Rose Bowl win over Penn State, and 11-3 in 2017, losing to Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. After the 2017 season, USC extended Helton’s contract through the 2023 season.

—A third straight losing season cost Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury his job after Red Raiders athletic director Kirby Hocutt made the dismissal official during a news conference.

Kingsbury, 39, took over at his alma mater before the 2013 season, his first head coaching job. He leaves with two years on his contract and a reported $4.2 million buyout. He ends his six seasons at Texas Tech with a 35-40 record and only two winning seasons.

The Red Raiders went 5-7 this season, losing their final five games, including a 35-24 defeat to Baylor on Saturday in Arlington, Texas.

—North Carolina fired head coach Larry Fedora following a second consecutive nine-loss season.

Fedora finishes with a 45-43 record in seven years at North Carolina. He took over the team in 2012 while it was under a postseason ban and guided the Tar Heels to an 8-4 record. North Carolina reached a bowl game each of the next four seasons, going 1-3. His contract ran through the next four seasons, and he is owed $12 million.

—Illinois coach Lovie Smith’s contract will be extended two years through the 2023 campaign, athletic director Josh Whitman announced.

Smith, 60, is 9-27 through three seasons at the school. The Fighting Illini went 4-8 this season, including a 2-7 mark in Big Ten play to finish last in the league’s West Division. The extension comes after a season in which Illinois absorbed a 63-0 loss to Iowa on Nov. 17 and also allowed 63 on two other occasions.

—Western Kentucky fired coach Mike Sanford after two seasons in which he went 9-16 with the Hilltoppers.

Western Kentucky finished 3-9 this season and were 6-7 in his first season on the job.

—Houston fired defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio with one year remaining on his contract. Cougars head coach Major Applewhite confirmed the move and thanked D’Onofrio for his two years with the program.

D’Onofrio previously served as defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes (2011-15) and Temple Owls (2006-10). Houston finished the regular season with an 8-4 record but allowed at least 50 points in three games. The Cougars have allowed 413 points this season, which is the fifth most in school history.

—An SEC official said the conference is looking into a scuffle that occurred in the moments after the Aggies’ stunning 74-72, seven-overtime upset of LSU in College Station, Texas, USA Today reported.

Former LSU and NFL running back Kevin Faulk, now the director of player development for the Tigers, was photographed in a scuffle with a man credentialed by Texas A&M. That man previously had punched LSU special assistant Steve Kragthorpe in the chest, an LSU spokesman told ESPN.

Kragthorpe, 53, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 and has a pacemaker. Kragthorpe said that while he doesn’t intend to press charges, Texas A&M could be held responsible for any injuries he could have sustained.

—Senior guard Demetrius Knox, injured in Ohio State’s win over Michigan on Saturday, will not play in the Big Ten Championship Game when the Buckeyes will meet Northwestern on Saturday in Indianapolis.

Knox, the starter at right guard, sustained a foot injury late in the game and was carted off the field. Redshirt freshman Wyatt Davis is expected to start in Knox’s spot.

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—Toledo will be appearing in a bowl game for the fifth straight season when it faces Florida International in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 21.

The Rockets (7-5) of the Mid-American Conference will be playing in their 18th bowl. Florida International (8-4) will be competing in its fourth. The Panthers of Conference USA have matched the school record for victories for the second straight campaign under coach Butch Davis.

—Field Level Media

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