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Chow takes coaching job at UCLA

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For nearly a quarter of a century, at the lunch break, Norm Chow, Mike King and Jim Kimmel would trot out of the Smith Fieldhouse on BYU's campus and head up Canyon Road jogging.

The Three Amigos, running in a cluster, made their way 2.5 miles to Day's grocery store in Edgemont, made a U-turn toward campus and their offices where King handled the athletic department books, Kimmel served as academic adviser and later compliance chief and Chow returned to his office downstairs from LaVell Edwards where he designed game plans for one of the most prolific passing offenses in college football.

Today, Norm Chow is 61. He'll be 62 in May and is headed for a post at UCLA as offensive coordinator, his fourth job since leaving BYU nine years ago. The other two amigos, his partners in Nikes are preparing for retirement in two months.

King and Kimmel rest; Chow goes hip-deep in Pac-10 lore. Again.

King, who speaks to Chow regularly, says he was "a little surprised" Chow took the UCLA job after leaving the Titans. "From our conversations this past year, I thought he'd do something new during fall."

But apparently, the thought of retiring, has not gripped Chow like it has the older members of the long-running, road-pounding lunch-break jog club that once included Seattle Seahawk head coach Mike Holmgren.

Chow still feels the itch, the fire.

And what better kindling to throw his way than what new UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel deftly kicked Chow's way this past week.

Chow gets a chance to coach against cross-town rival USC where he helped lift the Trojans to national championships before things soured with Pete Carroll. USC hasn't won a title since Chow left.

Chow, who sold his home in the Provo River Bottoms near Riverwoods, has a place in Manhattan Beach near Los Angeles, where his wife Diane has put anchor since Chow took the Tennessee job. He'll be paid a couple of million left on his Titan contact through the 2009 season.

"I think the idea of working with DeWayne Walker, who he really liked at BYU and got to know over the years, was a selling point for Norm to keep it going," King said.

What does it all mean?

Well, the BYU-UCLA game next fall just got more interesting.

Chow has never made an issue of how he left Provo. But it is no secret a certain vice president promised him he would replace LaVell Edwards someday. When the time came, Edwards found out that would not be so and let Chow know that on a private trip the two took at the end of the 1999 season. Chow left Provo for North Carolina State that next spring.

Combine that with the fallout at USC with Carroll in an ego-driven scene and you can understand the unquenchable flame that burns inside the former native of Hawaii.

The hatred between USC and UCLA is long-standing. Now Chow will go against not only Carroll, but the offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, his quarterback in Provo 1995-96 whom he hired when at USC.

Twists and turns.

Plus, fixing UCLA's offense is a challenge for Chow. The talent is there. Somebody needs to prepare the clay, form a product and put it in the kiln. Who is more prepared to be that artist than Chow?

The Bruin offense simply stunk the past few years while Walker elevated the Bruin defense to national caliber play. QB injuries have played a big part of it, but the Bruins were ranked 101st out of 119 in passing last year and 92nd in the NCAA in scoring.

That will change big time in Westwood starting this spring.

Just a month ago in Las Vegas when the Cougars and Bruins were preparing to meet for the second time, Walker met with reporters and you could tell he was a little frustrated over the coach-search situation in Westwood.

The list of candidates for the job, how it was handled, the names of coaches who withdrew or turned down offers or consideration illustrated just how poor of a coaching job the UCLA situation was, somewhat surprising for a BCS school with so much tradition, albeit on the basketball side of things.

But in the course of one month, the shovel turned, the soil moved, and up cropped this UCLA football drama.

I'll bet UCLA will be one of the most delicious stories of college football in 2008.

And Norm's friends will enjoy every second of it from their rocking chairs in Provo.

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com