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MORNING BRIEFING

Chow's situation at UCLA hardly seems cut and dried

November 23, 2010|T.J. SIMERS

I began the day with a UCLA fan holding a sharp knife and cutting into my typing thumb.

I was pretty happy about it myself.

Usually Dr. Ryan, my dermatologist at UCLA, uses a hatchet. But I guess she's saving that for Rick Neuheisel or Norm Chow.

No one is really safe in Bruinland these days. Neuheisel yells at his quarterbacks too much. Chow must go, according to e-mail. The defensive coordinator is already long gone, whatever his name might be.

Everyone's on edge. A fan aims an obscenity at a Times columnist after the Bruins flop against Washington, prompting Neuheisel to apologize Monday and explain the fan with the potty mouth was a guest of his.

I'll pass along the apology to Plaschke.

UCLA AD Dan Guerrero makes it clear he has no problem allowing Bruins boosters to attend postgame news conferences and swear.

One of the school's assistant athletic directors, though, steps forward to extend an apology on behalf of the school. He will remain anonymous so Guerrero doesn't swear at him.

And there are two more games to go.

"You here to see me?" Neuheisel asks.

"No, Chow," I tell him. "I want to see what he thinks about being your fall guy after this season."

It's a good guess someone is going to go down for this belly flop and Guerrero continues to support Neuheisel because he hired him. Too early to admit another mistake.

That leaves Chow and the defensive coordinator. The name of the defensive coordinator is almost never mentioned, and so he very well might not be here next year, but it's not like anyone knew he was here in the first place.

Everyone knows Chow, the quarterback guru. At one time he was considered an offensive expert, an asset, some folks at USC bellyaching because he didn't join Lane Kiffin.

"When I first met you, you said I was overrated. I never rated myself," says Chow. "Without a doubt I'm doing the best I can. It's killing me."

There's been suspicion for some time here that Chow and Neuheisel haven't gotten along. Much of it seems to stem from their difference of opinion on how they assess quarterbacks, Chow not as high on Richard Brehaut as maybe Neuheisel is.

"We don't have a problem," Chow says, while suggesting he does with an L.A. sports columnist.

"I don't have a problem with Neuheisel," Chow says. "I don't have a problem with Brehaut." You notice he doesn't say the same about Plaschke.

Does Chow think he'll be the fall guy?

"I absolutely do not have a problem with him," he repeats. "Does he with me? I don't know."

Chow is in the final year of his deal with UCLA, but he and Neuheisel have a handshake on a new two-year deal.

"We did it this past summer," Neuheisel says.

The contract has not been signed. Chow says, "You got to ask [Neuheisel]; I don't know why not," while expressing no alarm on his part.

"That would leave the door open, though, for you being the fall guy," I suggest, and Chow says, "Of course it does. If there's going to be a guy I would think I would be the logical guy."

Neuheisel says the contract is making its way through the University of California system for approval, and as long as it has taken this agreement to be reviewed, it's a wonder anyone gets a deal at UCLA.

When Neuheisel is told at his weekly news conference that a signed contract with Chow would end any speculation about Chow's future, he doesn't bite.

"I'm going to evaluate everything in our program at the finish line," he says.

Didn't Neuheisel already make that evaluation when he spent the school's money and agreed to extend Chow's contract two more years?

"The evaluation period will start when the season is over," Neuheisel says.

When asked if Chow has a two-year contract in the bank, so to speak, Neuheisel says, "Absolutely."

"It would seem a little unusual," I say, "to have someone sign a two-year contract and then get rid of them."

"It would be a little unusual," Neuheisel says.

"Do you see any chance of that happening?" I ask, giving Neuheisel the chance to say Chow isn't going anywhere.

But Neuheisel says, "The evaluation period will start once the season is over. And once I get down to that point then we'll make the decisions what's best for UCLA football."

I had no idea we would be making those decisions together, but it's about time.

WITH 14 minutes remaining during halftime of Monday night's game, a fan e-mailed a picture of the scoreboard in Staples Center that read: Clippers 155, Hornets 57.

The Clippers managed to hold on and win by four.

IF ANYONE really cared about the Clippers, Baron Davis would have some explaining to do. He's missed 11 of the last 12 games because he didn't properly prepare himself for the season.

As crazy as it sounds, the question had to be asked of Coach Vinny Del Negro: Does he really want the guy back?

"Absolutely," he said. "If he's in shape, if he's engaged and committed. . . ."

How sickening is that -- a coach left to wonder whether a guy being paid $65 million over five years might be committed?

As it is, this season appears lost, if making the playoffs is an objective. So given the team's emphasis on developing young players, is Baron really an asset in the long run?

"I can't give you an honest answer," said Del Negro, which sounded like a pretty telling and honest answer.

--

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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