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Count of Monte Cristo isn't Chow's exemplar

"I maintain my pride in the face of men, but I abandon it before God, who drew me out of nothingness to make me what I am." —Alexandre Dumas

The way people are painting Norm Chow you'd think the former Cougar coach is BYU's version of the Count of Monte Cristo.

You may remember Alexandre Dumas' famed story of vengeance, bitterness, trickery and deceit; the tale of a young man wrongfully accused, sent to prison only to escape; his discovery of a hidden treasure and his march to justice over those who ruined his life.

In the popular local media version of Dumas' BYU storyline applied to Chow, he's the long-suffering BYU servant coach/scapegoat, whose beloved school betrayed him with broken promises. Chow leaves, finds himself a fortune as the NCAA's top offensive coordinator at a top five program and is now poised to exercise revenge on the Cougars in the Coliseum come Saturday.

Make no mistake about it — Norm Chow's satisfaction over a USC win Saturday will be genuine. But the hype, the bitterness he supposedly possesses in the dark corners of his soul, this great story angle played like an Arkansas banjo on airwaves and headlines just rings off key.

Chow left Provo with his head held high. He's never looked back.

The angle should be that Chow, one of the most loyal lieutenants of legendary LaVell Edwards, got on with his life, got on with his career, and has exhibited nothing but professionalism since emptying out his desk in the Smith Fieldhouse after a 22-year stay.

Chow's post-BYU life has been nothing but gold. Like the Count, he found treasure. But unlike the Count, bitterness is not his anthem.

Chow's never had it so good. He's smiling all the way to the bank. He's got fame and fortune without the pain of frontline haggling that comes from being the headman — something he once wanted at BYU.

In fact, Chow's been masterful in burying his feelings over his BYU end. Call it stoicism of his half-Chinese heritage, or just plain coach wisdom of having grown up on the sidelines. As an offensive lineman at center, he was taught to fall, roll and regain his feet — a drill he's never forgotten.

He also learned to control the decibels of whispers from his own mouth.

Nobody's ever accused Chow of stupidity. He knew the day he left BYU there was no prize in hanging out the ugly and he's kept true that script, whether it be his first year at North Carolina State or this week of pre-game quotes.

True, certain BYU administrators made Chow believe he'd replace Edwards.

True, a different administration took a different tack.

True, a part of Chow was hurt, but that came in 1995. A scab grew over the wound.

On a balmy early January day in 2000, Edwards flew Chow to San Francisco for a few days. It was right after a disappointing loss to Marshall in the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.

During that private trip between two friends, Edwards re-emphasized what Chow already knew — it was over. The men shared feelings and a game plan. That winter, Chow executed his part, taking a coordinator job at North Carolina State, two time zones away. On Aug. 17, in the middle of Cougar two-a-day drills, Edwards delivered his retirement speech.

Bottom line to the tale: Chow maintains a home in Provo. Every one of his children have attended BYU including, currently, a son. Most of his best friends live in Provo including jogging partners who've maintained their ritual run as late as last month. He has never uttered a public explosive negative word about his BYU job situation.

Chow's departure from BYU only enhanced his niche as one of the foremost offensive minds in college football as he reinvented success at N.C. State and USC. Like the Ty Detmer days in Provo, he helped deliver the Trojans a Heisman Trophy quarterback in Carson Palmer last December.

Count up the dots. Fill in the blanks. It's a pretty picture devoid of slander.

This is not the work of an angry man blinded by rage and soured by hatred. If one tells all, Chow's handled the BYU affair with class and dignity, a real pro. And that's where he's found the real treasure.


E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com