UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel addressed the rumors of offensive coordinator Norm Chow’s interest in the same position with USC on Wednesday night, saying that he had spoken to Chow around 4:30 p.m. and that Chow “assured me he wants to be at UCLA.”
Neuheisel said that reports of Chow’s imminent departure to USC to become a part of new head coach Lane Kiffin’s first staff were premature, but he added that if the Trojans and athletic director Mike Garrett were to offer a “blockbuster” deal to Chow, he would not be angry if he took it.
“The profession is one where you certainly want a commitment,” Neuheisel said on a conference call with reporters. “You want people who want to be there. I think Coach Chow feels that about UCLA. I don’t think it, it’s exhibited. That being said, no one would ever be angry at somebody that if they got a blockbuster deal and felt like they couldn’t turn it down. All I know is what Norm Chow told me, that he is committed to UCLA.”
Chow’s hire caused a big splash on Jan. 21, 2006, seven days after Chow was relieved of his duties as offensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans. In two years at UCLA, Chow’s offenses have finished ranked No. 111 and No. 88 in the country in total offense, as the Bruins went 4-8 in 2008 and 7-6 in 2009, with an EagleBank Bowl win over Temple on Dec. 29.
Reports late on Tuesday night that USC was interested in Chow, with several media outlets reporting that negotiations were in the works. As of Wednesday morning, however, Chow’s agent told ESPN that he had not yet been contacted.
When asked if Chow – who is in the last year of a three-year deal that will pay him a $250,000 base salary, a $140,000 talent fee and a $250,000 retention bonus on April 1 – would be considered for an extension, Neuheisel said, “Obviously there can be movement in that regard. That’s for the people who sign the checks and make those decisions. With respect for me, I want to know that my assistant coaches want to be here.”
Meanwhile, Neuheisel continues to prepare for an important recruiting weekend, as several top verbally committed and uncommitted prospects will visit UCLA.
Several current Bruins were unaware of the situation as late as Tuesday afternoon, but quarterback Kevin Prince, who has been championed by Chow as the future of the program, said on Tuesday night that he was confident that the program could move forward if Chow does leave, and that the situation has emboldened the players to an extent.
“With us, coach Chow is our guy and even if he did go, I feel that we do have a sense of stability with coach Neuheisel here,” said Prince, who is expected to return as starting quarterback for his sophomore season in 2010. “On the offensive side of the ball, the best guys would have to step forward and say just because he’s not here, we’re not going anywhere. It does empower you a little bit.”