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UCLA's Chow could be tempted by the NFL, but the opportunity would have to be right

Updated: December 29, 2009, 1:37 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPN Los Angeles

The first thing you should know about UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow is that he rarely buys something unless he's sure.

Although he was just 21 years old when he married his wife, Diane -- and felt about 12 in terms of maturity -- the marriage has lasted 41 years.

Although he has had jobs with the BYU Cougars, North Carolina State Wolfpack, USC Trojans, Tennessee Titans and now UCLA Bruins, he has bought homes in only two places: Utah and Manhattan Beach, Calif.

The rest of the time, he's lived in a hotel.

"I've never been one to move my family all over every time I got a new job," Chow, 63, said.

So when you ask him whether he's bothered by the fact that his salary is set to fall from $1 million annually to $640,000 next season -- because the money the Titans were paying him the past two years, after buying out his contract, runs out after this season -- the answer you get might surprise you.

Chow You're not in this business for the money. If you are, you're wasting your time. If I spent as much time selling life insurance as I do coaching, I'd be a multimillionaire.

-- UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow

"You're not in this business for the money," Chow said. "If you are, you're wasting your time. If I spent as much time selling life insurance as I do coaching, I'd be a multimillionaire.

"If something presents itself professionally, we'll figure it out. … But it's really not about money.

"I mean, I stayed at BYU for over 20 years because my wife and I were determined to live like this. All of our four kids went to the same elementary school and the same high school. If I would've ever gotten fired, I would've gone out and sold shoes or something. We'd made up our minds to live like that."

Although his four children are all grown now, Chow is still a roots guy. As in, once he plants himself in a place, as he has in Los Angeles, he likes to stay there until the weather changes dramatically.

Could there be an opportunity that would make him think about uprooting himself from Los Angeles? Such as, say, another offensive coordinator job in the NFL or a long-coveted head-coaching job? Of course.

Chow even admits that the NFL is "exciting as heck" and "on a Sunday afternoon, that adrenaline is really pumping."

But guys like Chow don't move on a whim, so it would have to be the right opportunity.

Just this past fall, he passed on a chance to pursue the head-coaching job at San Jose State that eventually went to Mike MacIntyre.

At this moment, all of Chow's focus is on the Bruins and their game against Temple in the EagleBank Bowl on Tuesday.

For a young team that ranked in the bottom fifth in scoring among 120 FBS schools for the second straight season, the extra practices and experience that accompany a bowl game are vital to the future.

"It's important for the program that we not only get to a bowl game but that we play well at the bowl game," Chow said. "There's still a lot to do [at UCLA]."

"A lot to do" includes developing redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Prince into the same kind of record-breaking, NFL-ready signal-caller some of Chow's past protégés (Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Steve Young, Ty Detmer and Matt Leinart) became.

"You can just tell with Kevin, in the way he plays, the quickness with which he's making his choices, that he's getting it," Chow said with a little smile.

"He would've been so much further ahead [if he hadn't missed three games with a broken jaw]. He just missed seeing the looks and the defenses you have to see, the things that make an inexperienced guy more experienced."

Earlier this season, there was a sense inside and outside the program that Chow's preference for Prince conflicted with coach Rick Neuheisel's preference for opening up the quarterback competition on a weekly basis, allowing true freshman Richard Brehaut and senior Kevin Craft to get in the mix.

That, combined with the fact that Chow's salary will fall so precipitously next season, was reason enough to question his future.

Chow made a base salary of $250,000 in his first two years plus a talent fee of $50,000, according to a February 2008 report from the UCLA committee on compensation. That money was then deducted from the $1 million per season that the Titans owed him.

Next season, the talent fee increases to $140,000. Chow also will receive a $250,000 retention bonus after the first spring practice of 2010, and he can earn bonuses for bowl games and summer camps.

Although both Chow and Neuheisel admitted that they had differing opinions on how to manage the quarterbacks, both said there was no personal rift.

"We're fine. We're both offensive coaches, so we both have ideas," Chow said. "We get along fine. You have your normal professional disagreements, but that happens all the time.

"I keep telling Rick, 'That's what loyalty is. You're going to know my feelings, you don't want a "yes" man. A "yes" man is not a loyal guy.'"

Ramona Shelburne is a writer and columnist for ESPN Los Angeles

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