Utah Utes football: Norm Chow to be head coach at Hawaii

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 20 2011 9:04 p.m. MST

Coach Norm Chow and Jon Hays at the University of Utah football team practice Aug. 18, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Norm Chow's return to his alma mater will likely be short-lived. Less than a year after becoming the University of Utah's offensive coordinator, the 65-year-old is expected to become the next head coach at Hawaii.

"There's obviously a couple of things going on, but we're here and we will be here for practice tomorrow," Chow said. "You know, there's some talk and a lot of rumors and all that kind of stuff, we just have to kind of wait and see."

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser is reporting that University of Hawaii athletic director Jim Donovan has been authorized to begin negotiations with Chow after gaining approval from the school's search committee. The newspaper is reporting on its Web site that the on-going negotiations are focused more on what Chow's potential assistant coaches would make rather than the five-year, $600,000-$800,000 per year salary the university is prepared to pay Chow.

Speculation that Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake would join Chow in Hawaii are unfounded. ESPN 700's Bill Riley confirmed that Sitake is staying with the Utes. Riley reports that Sitake left the Utes' practice Tuesday without speaking to the media because he promised his children he would be on time for a function.

Chow, however, was surrounded by reporters at the Spence Eccles Field House.

"I don't know what the reports are saying but there's nothing finalized, Nothing's been done," Chow said before denying news that he's already taken the job in Hawaii. "I haven't signed a piece of paper. No one has told me that."

Chow emphasized that he's still in Utah helping to coach the Utes and not trying to be coy about anything. Should things develop, however, he would like to remain on the staff through the Dec. 31 Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech — noting he would "be honored to stay" if head coach Kyle Whittingham wants him to.

He does.

"That would be my plan if in fact it happens," Whittingham said. "It would be my desire to finish the season the way we started and have him coordinate and call the game for the bowl."

Whittingham acknowledged that Chow is very interested in the Hawaii job and it's a good opportunity for him. However, he added that in the coaching profession nothing is ever a done deal until it's done deal.

"Don't speculate on speculation. That's one of my credos 'if you have to have a credo,'" Whittingham said in borrowing a line from actor Chevy Chase in the original "Vacation" movie.

On a more serious note, though, Whittingham said having Chow stick around for the bowl game is all about the players.

"They are what matters most," he emphasized. "Whatever is the best scenario to give the players the best chance to win a game is what you should do."

And that, he explained, is keeping as much normalcy as possible — referencing how similar situations were handled in 2004 and 2008.

"That is the bottom line," Whitttingham said. "For now, in the short term, keep things as consistent and as adhering to what we've been doing in the regular season. Keep that in place."

Chow, who has been a career assistant in the collegiate and professional ranks, downplayed the significance of becoming a head coach.

"I'm just a guy that works as hard as he can work," Chow said. "Whatever happens, happens."

Chow's only previous stint as a head coach anywhere was at Hawaii's Waialua High School from 1970-72. He followed that with a lengthy tenure at BYU, where he served as an assistant coach from 1973-99. The highly touted offensive coordinator then moved on to North Carolina State (2000), USC (2001-04), the NFL's Tennessee Titans (2005-07) and UCLA (2008-10).

Chow has coached three Heisman Trophy winners (BYU's Ty Detmer as well as Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at USC) in his career and was on the staff of three national championship teams (BYU, 1984; USC 2003-04). He won the Broyles Award, honoring the nation's top assistant coach, in 2002.

Chow became Utah's offensive coordinator on Jan. 22, 2011, returning to the school where he met his wife, Diane, and earned two degrees,

"I'm awfully honored and blessed to be here. I really am," Chow said. "This is really exciting for me."

When asked if his potential departure could become a distraction as the Utes prepare for their ninth consecutive bowl game, Chow is confident it won't develop into such.

"If it were a distraction, I wouldn't be around," he said.

KITV, a television station in Honolulu, is reporting that Chow emerged from a group of finalists that include Texas associate head coach Duane Akina, Oregon State defensive coordinator Mark Banker, Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and Baylor assistant head coach Brian Norwood..

The Hawaii job opened up when former Utah defensive coordinator Greg McMackin retired after four seasons at the helm.

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