Norm Chow is with the Bruins, for now
Whether Norm Chow remains at UCLA as the football team’s offensive coordinator or bolts across town to rejoin USC will be determined by money.
Chow, who is in the final year of a three-year contract, has asked UCLA to extend his contact. The request was made after USC contacted him, according to a UCLA athletics source who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
During an evening conference call with reporters, UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said Chow “assured me that he wanted to be at UCLA” earlier in the day.
Chow is set to make $640,000 at UCLA next season, which includes a $250,000 bonus if he is the offensive coordinator on the first day of spring practice.
USC is thought to be able to pay considerably more than that.
“The profession is one where you certainly want commitment and you want people to be here and be excited about the job. I think Norm feels that and exhibits that,” Neuheisel said. But, he added, “Nobody would deny somebody a blockbuster deal.”
An extension to keep Chow at UCLA was discussed in recent weeks, the school athletics source said, but Chow gained leverage when Lane Kiffin was hired to replace Pete Carroll as USC’s head coach.
Kiffin skirted the Chow issue at his introductory news conference at USC on Wednesday evening, declining to talk about which coaches he might pursue.
However, Mike Garrett, USC’s athletic director, didn’t hesitate. He told The Times that pursuing Chow was his idea -- part of a plan to reunite Chow with defensive line coach Ed Orgeron and perhaps other former USC assistants.
“I said, ‘You know, it would be nice if we brought that whole staff back,’ ” Garrett said, “and I don’t think Lane was against that. So that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Chow, who was returning from a vacation in Florida on Wednesday, could not be reached for comment. His agent, Don Yee, denied negotiating with USC. “Virtually all of the reporting thus far regarding Norm Chow has been inaccurate,” he said.
Meanwhile, USC’s Garrett was saying Kiffin was “going to recruit” Chow.
“There are all sorts of negotiations,” Neuheisel said. “What’s important is that Norm is saying he wants to be at UCLA.”
Chow and Kiffin were members of Carroll’s USC staff from 2001-04. Chow left for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans after Carroll said he would no longer be calling plays. It was Kiffin who replaced him as offensive coordinator.
Asked about a possible contract extension for Chow, Neuheisel said, “Obviously there can be movement in that regard, but the people upstairs make those decisions. I want to know we have assistant coaches who are committed to the program and committed to bringing a championship here. Norm has given me the assurance that’s how he feels.”
Uncertainty about Chow comes at a critical time. UCLA will host several recruits this weekend. “Norm knows enough about the college football signing period to know this is a critical time,” Neuheisel said. “I told him it’s important he share that with important people, which are our recruits, and he assured me he was going to get on the phone and get that done.”