Q & A with Chow and Neuheisel

UCLA's new offensive coordinator, Norm Chow, and Head Coach Rick Neuheisel talked to the media Monday, discussing what went into Chow coming to UCLA, their shared vision of UCLA's offense, and more...

Rick Neuheisel's opening statement:

"We are elated at UCLA to welcome one of the premier signal callers, one of the premier offensive minds in all of college football, and in all of football, as a matter of fact. He is not only a great tactician but he's also a great person. I've had a chance to get to know Norm over the years, and I am thrilled to announce today that Norm Chow has agreed to join us at UCLA. He'll be the offensive coordinator. He'll be the signal caller. And he'll be the architect of what we hope will be one of the more explosive offenses in all of college football. Again, we are absolutely elated. It is a huge day for the Bruins. I'm thrilled that Norm and his family have decided to join us. So, with that, I'll allow Norm to jump in. Norm, tell them what we're going to do, baby."

Chow: "Thanks, Rick. First of all, let me say this. I'm awfully excited, really excited about the opportunity to work at UCLA. I need to make sure to thank Coach Neuheisel for this opportunity. I'm looking forward eagerly to work with him, and DeWayne (Walker) and Coach (Bob) Palcic and the others on the staff, and the players. It allows me to come back home, to be with family and loved ones that are near. I'm sure with the support of the university, the community and an awful lot of hard work, we're going to go get them. We're going to work hard and be successful. Again, I'm elated to be here."

Rick, did you see this as a possibility when you first came on?

Neuheisel: "I had thought long ago I would love the opportunity to work with Norm. When I was at Washington and he was beginning his great run at USC, I watched his offenses carefully and tried to learn from them. I just loved how he shared the ball with all the great players they had assembled.  I've always admired his work. When this opportunity came to me, I always felt that UCLA deserved the best, so I went after the best. I'm just very fortunate that it worked out, that Norm was able to not only come back to his home, but to college football, which I know he and I both really share a passion for. We're going to have a lot of fun together."

Norm, what went into your final decision on wanting to return to college and UCLA being the choice?

Chow: "There are obviously a lot of factors. As Rick said, we've been friends for a long time. I've known DeWayne forever. It just seemed like a nice fit. I got to stay at home. We have a home here in California. I have two children that are still at home. It just makes for a nice fit. And the fact that it is UCLA, with the great traditions that they do have, it's an awfully exciting time."

Norm, you used to coach at another place in town. Is it going to be strange or feel good to be going against USC?

Chow: "My family and I enjoyed a very successful time at USC. I have a son that graduated there and I have son who still goes there. We had a lot of fun, and hopefully I had a hand in developing the program that they have going now. Probably the most meaningful thing we took away from our time at USC was the tremendous amount of friends and relationships we shared there. It's a unique place. Obviously, Pete has done a terrific job. It will be the same respect that we carry forth, except on that Saturday afternoon when we have to go forth and go to war."

Neuheisel: "Obviously I've been on record as echoing those sentiments. I have great respect for Pete. I admire what they've gotten done there. I went to law school at USC. I have great respect for program and the entire university.  I think that can be the case between the two schools. There can be a real mutual respect for one another, except, as Norm said, on that Saturday afternoon when we get to square off. The goal, for us, is to get where they are, to be one of the elite in the country. I think certainly Southern California can support two major programs that can compete for the big prizes. That's our aim and that's our mission, and we hope to get there as soon as possible."

Norm, can you talk about what you know about Ben Olson?

Chow: "When we were at USC, he was coming out of high school. I remember Pete making a comment that he was one of the finest high school quarterbacks he looked at, at that point in time. We didn't have much of chance to recruit him. I can't remember exactly, but I think he went right over and committed to BYU right away. We really didn't have a chance to study it too much, other than what we tried to gather information before the recruiting process began. I did get a chance one summer to see him at a camp, and he looked awfully good. We're excited about the opportunity to work with him, and not only him, but the other quarterbacks as well. I remember the Cowans from recruiting again. So we're looking forward to working with all of them."

Norm, do you have a greater appreciation for the college game after spending a couple of seasons with the pros?

Chow: "The game is the same, basically. I coached in high school as well. Football is football. I think relationships are a little different. The pros are grown men, set in their ways and all. But it was a fun experience there. I enjoyed every minute coaching in the NFL but then again, we're at UCLA. We're excited about the opportunity, and although the game has some little differences, you know, the hash marks and the time clocks, it's still football. That's the fun thing about it, the chance to work with young people and work with other coaches like Rick and DeWayne and others. I've known DeWayne forever. Our relationship goes back to the '80s. So it's exciting to work with the people you're going to work with and the young people."

Norm, did you consider taking time off?

"Yes. Very much so. And maybe a chance to go back into the National Football League. But then I got a phone call from a very persuasive fellow."

Rick, is it strange that your two coordinators are guys who interviewed for a job that you eventually got?

Neuheisel: "You know, I think it speaks volumes about the two guys. I think it was important the two guys knew each other. The question was just asked whether Norm was considering taking a year off and certainly after the rigors of an NFL season, and the length of time Norm was away from his family, that had to be a alluring. But DeWayne and I had forged a relationship here in the last few weeks, one of trust, one of mutual admiration, and I had DeWayne get involved in the process of talking to Norm because of their relationship. And to let everyone know, this is going to be an ego-less thing. The three of us are going to be partners, partners in a start-up company that has a huge, huge upside. We're going to share and commiserate equally and together. That's what I sold. DeWayne and I went over to Norm's house, and just like you'd go over to your blue-chip recruit's, and in his living room, we shared the vision with his family. It was a really special time, because Norm obviously a very devout family man. Family is critical to him. Family is critical to me. And to DeWayne as well. And we're going to create our own family, one built on trust. And I just think the sky's the limit on where this partnership can go."

What day was that, that you went to Norm's house?

Neuheisel: "I think it was within the NCAA rules. I think it was okay. It wasn't an illegal home visit. I think we went over both Friday night and Saturday night."

Rick, how do you envision this working with Norm? Is he going to have total control of the offense, or are you going to have a hand in it?

"Norm is the offensive coordinator. Norm is going to be the play caller. And I'm going to be an ally to him. I've been an offensive coach for a long time. The great thing when we sat down and went over the parameters of the relationship Norm said, 'I want your input.' He's not one of those guys that thinks I'm going to be meddelsome or looking over his shoulder. He wants the input, but he knows that I trust him. This is going to be built on a foundation of trust. You don't have to look very far in the statistics to find out that this guy can call plays, and that this guy can diagram an offense. What we want is to make sure everyone participates in the UCLA offense, feels appreciated. If anyone in college football has done it better I'm not aware of it."

Chow: "Let me say this, too. I'm not looking, and never have been, someone who needs power or control. When you coordinate an offense, the word means a lot. You put everybody's thoughts together. You coordinate it all. Everyone's thoughts are important. Obviously on Saturday afternoon you don't have a chance for a round-table discussion every time a call needs to be made. But that call is made after spending many hours together as a staff. Rick, the line coach, Bob Palcic, and the others, and those decisions are made on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. It's not a power struggle. Never will be, never has been, in any situation as a coordinator. Together, collectively, when you see a team do well, it will be UCLA. It won't be Norm Chow, or DeWayne Walker or Bob Palcic. It will be UCLA and the head coach Rick Neuheisel."

Rick, could you have envisioned getting the offensive and defensive coordinators you did? You've been busy...

Neuheisel: "Well, I'm always a person you who believes you try for the best. If they say no then they say no. I've always believed that you try. You try to sell a vision, and you sell the concept of partnership. I'm just very fortunate that I had great guys that also believed in those concepts. They're family guys, they believe in kids. It's going to be a special deal. We'll have our bumps in the road. It's not going to be a yellow brick road. But we are going to succeed because we're going to keep believing in one another. And I'm up for the challenge."

Rick, we know you can't do contract details, but can you at least give us a length on the agreement with Norm?

Neuheisel: "I tried to get him to sign up for 25 years but he wouldn't go that far. The parameters of the contract will be discussed, but we hope to have Norm stay for a long, long time."

Rick, how do you see the rest of the staff shaking out? Is there a chance Norm or you could coach the quarterbacks?

"Norm and I have decided we're not in a hurry for the rest of the pieces. I think the rest of the recruiting army is in place to finish off the class. Certainly there are a number of student athletes out there that were concerned about who would be the offensive coordinator. They don't have to look very far in terms of the resume to realize that this is going to be well taken care of. In terms of the other pieces we're going to take our time. There are a number of great candidates out there. And we want to be perfect and right. As I said early on is to keep making good decisions after good decisions after good decisions. And sometimes you can't go too fast to do that. I'm thrilled about the decisions we've made thus far, and this is a pivotal one, one that I'm very proud of and pleased that we got a guy of Norm's caliber to join us."

Rick, when you go out recruiting high school quarterbacks, shouldn't Norm's resume be a help?

"I think that's accurate. This is a lot like Terry Donahue did many years ago. He went out and found Homer Smith. He went and found a guy that had a great resume, a great track record for develping quarterbacks, and I was fortunate to be one of them. I remember a game when Norm was the architect of the BYU offense, and Homer was the architect of the UCLA offense and the final score was 39-37. Unfortunately, it was BYU on the winning end. There must have been 1,000 yards of offense that day. So we're putting those two offense together, seeing if we can come up with something akin to the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. It will make for a lot of exciting Saturdays for our fans."

Norm, since living in Tennessee, your family was there. And when you were at USC, your wife was in Utah for some of the time. What's it going to be like working in a place where you can go home to your family every night?

"It's awfully exciting. It's an exciting time for me. I've been home for about a week and I think I'm already driving my wife crazy. But I was helping with the dishes this morning so I am trying to please her a little bit. It's a fun time for us, for our entire family. As Rick said, my family is very, very important to me, like it is for all of you. We're looking forward to that, to staying home, and being home, instead of driving after work to an empty hotel room I get to come home to my family, people I love and cherish. It's going to be fun and exciting. Again, I'm very grateful to Rick to allow me to do that."

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