Dick Harmon: The Norm Chow-Utah marriage is comfortable for both parties
SALT LAKE CITY — Norm Chow is now at a place and time in his life that a stop at the University of Utah will bring both challenges and rewards.
It's a win-win for both Kyle Whittingham and Chow.
With Utah embarking on its maiden voyage into the Pac-12, who would be better to advise the Utes of the pitfalls or stepping stones just below the surface? Season after season, Chow has devoured scouting reports, prepared scripts, reviewed recruiting classes and rosters of Pac-12 schools. He is familiar with coaching staffs and their quirks and particulars. He knows their strengths and weaknesses, especially in Los Angeles when it comes to USC and UCLA, who will be Utah's divisional opponents.
It's all recon, and Utah just purchased it.
For Chow, it's an opportunity to step in and mentor, advise, take charge where it's needed and push forward the agenda of some young coaches who just won 10 games. He can lift as much as is needed and get as down and dirty as he wants.
You can see it as a transitional position — a bridge of sorts: a tweak here and a little oil there as he works with Aaron Roderick and Dave Schramm — or whomever should there be new alignment.
One thing is certain, however: Chow is at a time in his life he can make those choices and feel very comfortable in doing it.
Since he left Provo in the late 1990s for North Carolina State, he has amassed a small fortune. Before he left, Chow dabbled in the stock market — kind of like a hobby. Then it got serious.
Then he began making big paychecks — more than assistant football coaches should ever expect to make in a lifetime. He got good at trading stocks and watching the ticker tape — a passion he shared with several BYU athletic department employees and it has continued to this day.
He has a comfortable residence in Los Angeles a few blocks from his son Cameron. His other son Carter also lives close by and works for the famous sports agency headed by Don Yee. The two sons have provided Norm and Diane with three grandchildren, while daughter and grandchild live in Hawaii.
These grandchildren are everything to Dr. Chow. If you are a grandparent, you understand the impact grandchildren can have on your life.
Norm will commute to his job at Utah from his home in Los Angeles, and will live in a hotel in Salt Lake City.
"I'll be like Rick Majerus," said Chow. "It's really not that out of the ordinary these days in the coaching profession. When I was at Tennessee, there were four of us coaches who lived in one of those Marriott hotel properties like a Fairfield or something. There were four of us; three of us were married and one was divorced."
A different lifestyle?
"No. Didn't Roger French do that at BYU for about 25 years?" Chow said.
Yes, he certainly did, but only for a time French lived in his office — not a Marriott.
Chow is set in life — comfortable in his skin and his position.
That is the confidence and experience Whittingham wants on his staff at this time.
It's far different than the days when Chow was a receivers coach at BYU and watched offensive coordinator Doug Scovil and Kyle's father, defensive coordinator Fred Whittingham, jockey for position opposite one another on LaVell Edwards' staff. In those days, Chow had little say, but he learned.
Boy, did he learn. Then he got his chance behind Scovil, then Mike Holmgren, and then on his own.
In the past decade USC, Tennessee, UCLA and now Utah have sought out Chow to fix things by influencing practices and developing players and offenses.
There's only one way to describe it: He is a hired gun.
I teased him over the weekend that he's now expected to become a magician and perform his magic. Folks will expect him to do the whole show: pull furry things out of top hats and do the smoke-and-mirror tricks.
To that he responds with a classic comeback: "The best way to do magic is by getting great players."
Chow then described how much he admired Whittingham's work and how his team is already very successful.
It's not like he's taking a huge risk or being called upon to perform serious surgery. I asked him how long the venture would be.
"We'll see. We'll have to see," is how he put it.
He doesn't expect this stock trade at Utah to do anything but go forward and pay dividends.
UCLA just cashed him out, so his first day is Wednesday.
Utah will benefit greatly from this move, but so will Chow.
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