Chow rebuffs USC, stays at UCLA

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Norm Chow declined the chance to switch teams again in Los Angeles’ fierce football rivalry.

Chow said Thursday he’ll stay at UCLA for his third season as offensive coordinator, rebuffing overtures from Lane Kiffin to return to Southern California.

After a couple of uneasy days during which the Trojans openly courted Chow, UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was grateful to learn his widely respected offensive mastermind had passed on a lucrative contract offer at USC.

“It’s an exciting time to be at UCLA,” Chow said. “I certainly understand the challenges, but I’m looking forward to what lies ahead at UCLA.”

USC athletic director Mike Garrett acknowledged Wednesday he hoped to lure Chow to Kiffin’s new staff, joining defensive guru Monte Kiffin and top recruiter Ed Orgeron. But the rumblings began to circulate through the media before USC had even made contact with Chow, who was on vacation in Florida when his imminent departure from UCLA was being reported as fact.

“At that point I hadn’t spoken to anyone, and to me, that was very, very unfair,” said Chow, who was at a hospital with his wife to visit a sick friend when he first heard he was leaving UCLA.

Lane Kiffin left several messages for Chow, and USC eventually spoke with Chow’s agent, Don Yee, and Chow’s son, Carter, a lawyer who works with Yee. Chow is in the final year of his contract at UCLA, but USC’s interest seems likely to spur progress on an extension.

USC’s big contract offer didn’t sway Chow, he said: “It’s not always about the money.”

During nearly four decades in college football, Chow has coached three Heisman Trophy winners while running some of the nation’s most sophisticated passing games, starting with 27 seasons alongside LaVell Edwards with BYU and its innovative spread offense.

Chow was the Trojans’ offensive coordinator from 2001-04, during the first four seasons of their remarkable nine-year run under former coach Pete Carroll.

But Carroll replaced the longtime assistant with Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian in 2005 in a move still lamented by many Trojans fans. Carroll apparently wanted to shift Chow’s responsibility primarily to coaching quarterbacks while turning over the offense to his two young assistants.

Chow said he had “no problem with Lane Kiffin,” and the two have talked over the years.

“Lane Kiffin is going to do well at USC, and it’s going to present an extremely formidable challenge for us all,” Chow said. “He’s an extremely bright young football coach, and he’s putting together a great staff.”

After leaving USC, Chow ran the Tennessee Titans’ offense for three seasons before returning to Los Angeles when Neuheisel became UCLA’s coach in 2008.

“As Norm said, we are building something very special at UCLA, and he is certainly an important part of the package,” Neuheisel said. “We have unfinished business here at UCLA, and our coaches and players are very excited about our future. I’m glad Norm wants to finish what he’s started. UCLA is a special place to call home.”

UCLA (7-6) beat Temple 30-21 in the EagleBank Bowl last month to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2006.