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Norm Chow to stay at UCLA

Offensive coordinator had interest in joining Lane Kiffin at USC, but in the end, 'This is what I wanted to do.'

January 15, 2010|By Chris Foster and Gary Klein

Offensive coordinator Norm Chow is excited to be at UCLA, repeating that several times during a conference call Thursday to announce he would not be leaving to coach at USC.

So after two days of false reports, speculation and maneuvering, Chow and USC transition from "will he?" to "what happens now?"

USC Coach Lane Kiffin will continue filling out his staff, after the Trojans failed to get a major piece of their dream team to go with Monte Kiffin and Ed Orgeron.

Chow will go back to UCLA, and is expected to receive the contract extension he sought, following a public courting by the school's cross-town rival.

"There were discussions being made and a decision made to stay at UCLA," Chow said. "That's the honest-to-goodness truth. There was some talk, but after sitting down quietly with my family and my wife, I realized this is what I wanted to do. Nothing more, nothing less."

Whether talking to their rival will engender any bad feelings, Chow said, "If any work needs to be done, I'll certainly do that over the next few days,"

From Tuesday, when reports surfaced that Chow had been hired by USC, to Thursday, when Chow contradicted the reports, the situation stayed in the spotlight.

UCLA fan websites bristled, with alternating opinions that skewered Chow to calling for UCLA to step up financially.

UCLA players were perplexed. Quarterbacks Kevin Prince and Richard Brehaut met with Coach Rick Neuheisel to try to find out what was going on and learned, "this is a business," Brehaut said. "I think everyone makes a decision trying to look out for themselves."

USC quarterback Matt Barkley had been looking forward to working with Chow. After Kiffin and his assistants were introduced Wednesday, Barkley said, "It's huge, and if we can top it off with a certain someone, that would be even better."

But Barkley said Thursday that he was not disappointed

"It doesn't change a whole lot because nothing was set in stone," he said. "I'm still excited to work with Coach Kiffin because he really knows offense."

Kiffin could not be reached for comment.

Neuheisel seemed caught off guard, saying that he first learned about USC's interest through the media. When asked Wednesday if it would have been better to hear the news from Chow, Neuheisel said, "I was disappointed on some level, but I'm not pointing fingers. I think it was irresponsible reporting."

Chow said he did call Neuheisel, saying, "I felt I owed it to him," but that was after the story was already out there.

Neither Chow nor Neuheisel said there would be a problem moving on, more or less a necessity with a number of recruits coming to UCLA this weekend.

If there were issues with players or recruits, Chow said, "If it needs to be looked at, I'm going to do it."

Neuheisel said Wednesday, "Nobody would deny somebody a chance at a blockbuster deal." But he also said, "Norm is committed to UCLA" and "I told him how important it was he share that with important people, our recruits, and he assured me he was going to get on the phone and get that done."

Chow said that Kiffin "made several attempts" to get in touch with him. Kiffin also spoke with Chow's representatives. Don Yee, Chow's agent, said there were "no negotiations."

The interest came at a time when Chow had started talking to Neuheisel about a contract extension.

"Rick and I talked," Chow said. "UCLA works a little differently as a public institution." Chow will make $640,000 next season, including a $250,000 bonus if he is UCLA's offensive coordinator on the first day of spring practice.

Chow said he had interest in USC, a reason he waited until Thursday to announce he was staying at UCLA.

"How do I know I'm not interested?" Chow said. "Why do I make a statement like that when I don't know?" But, he said, "Nothing happened. Nothing happened."

USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett said Wednesday that it was his idea to bring Chow back to USC as part of a staff that also includes Orgeron and Monte Kiffin, Lane's father.

When informed that UCLA officials confirmed that Chow would remain with the Bruins, Garrett appeared disappointed but said of Chow, "I love the guy to death."

Regardless of whom he hires, Lane Kiffin said he plans to call the plays.

The pairing of Chow and Kiffin might have been an uncomfortable one. Chow was USC's offensive coordinator in 2001-2004, helping the Trojans win two national titles. He tutored Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, and called plays for teams that featured tailback Reggie Bush, the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner.

Many USC fans have been lamenting Chow's absence from the Trojans' program ever since he left after the 2004 season to join the Tennessee Titans' staff.

Chow left, in part, because Pete Carroll planned to give him a lesser role while increasing Kiffin's and Steve Sarkisian's responsibilities. But a near $1-million salary from the Titans also drew him to the NFL.

Meantime, USC fans have been slow to forget that it was Kiffin who was calling plays when the Trojans failed to convert a fourth-quarter, fourth-and-two running play in the Bowl Championship Series title game against Texas in January 2006.

Bush was standing on the sideline when tailback LenDale White was stopped short of the first down.

Asked during his introductory news conference if Chow would join the staff, Kiffin said he would not discuss specifics about his search or who he was hiring.

Of his relationship with Chow, he said, "I think the world of Norm. And I don't have any issues with Norm."

Chow said the same about Kiffin, but, "I'm looking forward to what lies ahead."

chris.foster@latimes.com

gary.klein@latimes.com

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