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Utah Utes football: Norm Chow focused on game, not return to Provo

Published: Friday, Sept. 16 2011 9:58 a.m. MDT

Coach Norm Chow talks with a reporter  prior to  the Utes' season-opener at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City  Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011.  (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Coach Norm Chow talks with a reporter prior to the Utes' season-opener at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City Thursday, Sept. 1, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As far as Norm Chow is concerned, this week's football game might as well be in Pocatello or Pawtucket.

The former Cougar coach isn't about to rise or shout about playing in Utah County again.

The new Utah offensive coordinator's roots were planted in Provo for nearly three decades, but BYU's home clearly is no longer his.

Just ask him.

"There's nothing to it, "Chow said while downplaying questions about the Cougs, whom he coached from 1973-99. "It's gone. It's past."

Since leaving BYU last millennium — when it became apparent he wouldn't be LaVell Edwards' successor — Chow has hopped all over the football coaching map as an offensive coordinator.

Norm Chow during University of Utah football practice in Rice-Eccles Stadium  Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Norm Chow during University of Utah football practice in Rice-Eccles Stadium Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

He spent the year 2000 at North Carolina State — where he helped groom San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. He then made a big splash, joining Pete Carroll at USC and tutoring the likes of Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart from 2001-04.

Chow took an NFL detour to the Tennessee Titans from 2005-07 before returning to SoCal for his last gig — a three-year stint at UCLA (2008-10).

Now at Utah assisting head coach Kyle Whittingham, Chow has had five different teams and a dozen years to allow feelings about BYU — bitter and/or sweet — to mellow.

"It's been such a long time. I'm not kidding ya. There's so much water under the bridge. I'm over it," Chow said. "People have asked me that (about BYU), and I don't mean to be rude, but I'm of a different era. I don't know those guys down there any more. I was a Rondo Fehlberg, Glen Tuckett kind of guy."

University of Utah Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow during practice at the University of Utah baseball field in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) University of Utah Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow during practice at the University of Utah baseball field in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

No offense to those former BYU athletic directors or Tom Holmoe, but Chow is now a Chris Hill kind of guy.

That development has brought his collegiate loyalties full circle, right back to where they started when he played on The Hill from 1965-67.

Yep, he's a Utah Man. Again.

"I'm glad to be here," said Chow, who earned All-WAC honors as a senior at Utah. "I met my wife here. I went to school here. I have my two degrees from here."

Continuing to reminisce about Utah for a moment, Chow fondly recalled living in his in-law's basement while he attended graduate school at the U.

"We couldn't afford to rent an apartment," he said, grinning.

Chow, whose contract no longer prevents rent payments, is also fond of Salt Lake City because it's where he was married and where his four children were born.

Coach Norm Chow and Kyle Whittingham  at the University of Utah football team practiceThursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Coach Norm Chow and Kyle Whittingham at the University of Utah football team practiceThursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

"So, yeah," he added, "there are a lot of good memories."

There is probably a plethora of good memories from his 27 seasons at BYU as well. He just doesn't want to talk about them — or his time in Provo or his feelings about his school's rival.

"It's been a long time," Chow said. "I'm in another era. It's just another game we've got to play."

With his focus elsewhere, Chow wasn't too chatty about the Cougars' new offensive coordinator who played under him for a couple of seasons in the late 1990s, either. He definitely doesn't regard Brandon Doman, a sophomore in Chow's final season at BYU, as a protege.

"I don't know much about Brandon. I never had Brandon Doman," Chow said. "He was a young guy when I was there. … I don't know the guy."

Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn behind defensive coach Norm Chow during University of Utah football practice in Rice-Eccles Stadium  Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.    (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn behind defensive coach Norm Chow during University of Utah football practice in Rice-Eccles Stadium Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Next question?

This will be Chow's third return trip to LaVell Edwards Stadium as a visitor.

His USC Trojans throttled BYU 42-10 in 2004, during Gary Crowton's final season at the helm of the Cougars.

The Y. wasn't nearly as hospitable in his next homecoming. The Cougars exacted big-time revenge in '08 when Chow's UCLA Bruins were on the bagel end of a 59-0 bashing.

"I've been back a couple of times," he recalled. "The minute the game starts, you look up and you've got a different color jersey and that's all that matters. It's all about our guys now."

Knowing part of his coach's resume, Utah quarterback Jordan Wynn found it interesting that Chow will make trips to two old stomping grounds in consecutive weeks.

University of Utah Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow during practice at the University of Utah baseball field in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. (Mike Terry, Deseret News) University of Utah Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow during practice at the University of Utah baseball field in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011. (Mike Terry, Deseret News)

"I don't think it'll be too bizarre. He's done a pretty good job, handled it well last week," Wynn said, referring to Utah's game at USC. " He's a coach. He's been around the game for a while, so I doubt this is his first time returning to a stadium."

Whittingham, who knows what it's like to return to BYU after changing allegiances, doesn't find it challenging to come back as the enemy.

"It's easy," the former BYU linebacker said. "It's just like the players — once the game is on and you're in game mode, you tune everything else out and you're focused on the task at hand, and the surroundings are really a non-factor."

BYU's gritty defense, on the other hand, has Chow's full attention.

"They're good. They're strong, they're sturdy," Chow said of Bronco Mendenhall's D. "They have a nice scheme. They obviously take advantage of the type of players they have. They do a nice job with it. It's going to be a real challenge. ... They do what they're supposed to do, and it's a sign of a well-coached team."

Coach Norm Chow and Jon Hayes at the University of Utah football team practiceThursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Coach Norm Chow and Jon Hayes at the University of Utah football team practiceThursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Chow will be up in the booth for the game, a place he said he likes to be so he can take out the emotions of the crowd and focus on his task at hand with a better view of the field.

On this night, it might also shield him from potential trash-talking or noisy distractions from Y. fans who used to cheer for his prolific offenses.

"I've been in the NFL. I've been a lot of places since then," he said. "I don't mean to belittle it. I don't mean to be cocky about it. I just don't know them (at BYU). It's a different era. It's a different deal.

"We're having to get our guys ready here," he added. "We've got our hands full now. So all of the emphasis is there."

Just like it would be in Pocatello or Pawtucket instead of Provo.

Quarterback Jon Hays and coach Norm Chow at the University of Utah football team practiceThursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News) Quarterback Jon Hays and coach Norm Chow at the University of Utah football team practiceThursday, Aug. 18, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)

Cougars and Utes on the air

Utah (1-1) at BYU (1-1)

Saturday, 7:15 p.m. MT

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

TV: ESPN2

Radio: 102.7 FM, 700 AM, 1160 AM

Norm Chow's coaching career

2011: Utah offensive coordinator

2008-10: UCLA offensive coordinator

2005-07: Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator

2001-04: USC offensive coordinator

2000: North Carolina St. offensive coordinator

1982-99: BYU offensive play caller

Utah's Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow watches the team during drills. University of Utah holds practice Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011.  (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) Utah's Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow watches the team during drills. University of Utah holds practice Saturday, Aug. 13, 2011. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

1996-99: BYU asst. head coach/OC/QBs/WRs

1994-95: BYU asst. head coach/QBs/WRs

1986-93: BYU QBs/WRs

1982-85: BYU WRs/Recruiting coordinator

1979-81: BYU receivers

1978: BYU running backs

1976: BYU receivers

1975: BYU freshmen/JV coach

1973-74: BYU graduate assistant

1970-72: Waialua HS (Hawaii) head coach

1965-67: Utah football player (All-WAC '67)

Source: Utah football media guide

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