SALT LAKE CITY — Utah offensive coordinator Norm Chow made it official. He's the new head coach at the University of Hawaii.
"I'm excited. I'm fired up, but I'm also saddened to leave this place," Chow said while noting how much he enjoyed coaching at his alma mater.
Although Chow will miss the next two days of practice to officially accept the position in Hawaii, he'll join the Utes in El Paso on Monday and coach in the Dec. 31 Sun Bowl against Georgia Tech.
"It is an exciting time but again it's tempered by the fact that I'm going to miss these kids, Kyle (Whittingham) and the staff," Chow said Wednesday at the Spence Eccles Field House.
Coaching in the bowl game, he added, is something he's looking forward to doing.
"(Kyle's) kind enough to let me coach it," Chow said. "I want to coach it and I'm going to coach it."
Whittingham expressed appreciation for the time and dedication that Chow gave to the program in his 11 months at Utah — calling it both a great and unique opportunity for the 65-year-old.
"Everything came together for him to make it happen at this point and time," Whittingham said.
Chow's hiring at Hawaii prompted a dozen or so quick inquiries about the Utah offensive coordinator vacancy. Because of the attractiveness of coaching in the Pac-12, Whittingham expects the number to swell to 40 or 50.
"You would be surprised at the names that have thrown their hat in the ring as far as showing interest or flat out wanting the job," he said.
Whittingham has no timetable to fill the position, saying he'd error on the side of patience to make sure he has the right fit. Whittingham did, however, say he wanted the offense to head in a direction that plays to the strengths, talents and abilities of guys in the program.
The search will include internal candidates. Wide receivers coach Aaron Roderick and running backs coach Dave Schramm have previous coordinating experience.
"I always look inside first. You promote from within when you can," Whittingham said. "It's not always the right fit and it's not always the right circumstances, but I like to cultivate and develop coaches within the program and bring them up through our system and do that whenever possible."
Changing coordinators isn't ideal, Whittingham acknowledged, but it's part of college football.
"Coaches come and go. There's a lot of movement every single year," he explained. "So that's something we'll have to adapt to, but I don't think it will be a problem."
Quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said Chow will be missed, but that he's more than deserving of becoming a head coach.
"It's a great opportunity for him," Johnson continued. "I've learned a lot from him. It's been great to have him around. We all, obviously, wish him the best."
Despite rumors to the contrary, Whittingham doesn't expect to lose any other full-time coaches to Hawaii. Defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake was the primary subject of such speculation.
"I'm staying," Sitake said. "I don't know where all the rumors started but it's actually flattering."
Sitake applied for the Hawaii job — at the request of folks on the islands — but never interviewed for the position.
"I think once they interviewed Norm that's the guy they wanted," he said, adding that Chow is "a great coach who is going to do some great things."
As for his own situation, Sitake emphasized that's he happy doing what he's doing.
"All I care about is coaching these guys. I've got a great group of young men that I get to coach, a great staff that I get to work with and a great boss," Sitake said. "So things are going real well. It's going to take something great to pull me away from here."
Chow, a career assistant at the collegiate and professional ranks, insists he hasn't aspired to becoming a head coach.28 comments on this story
"I just try to be a good football coach," he said while noting the opportunity to return to Hawaii, where he grew up just a valley away from the campus, is special.
It's a word Hawaii athletics director Jim Donovan used in making the official announcement of Chow's hiring.
"Obviously Norm is one of the best offensive minds in the country and we are thrilled that he's able to come home to lead our football program," Donovan said. "This is special not only for the university but for him. His wide-open offense and name recognition will only help us in recruiting the top talent to our university and football program."