USC going after Chow as UCLA waits

Updated: January 13, 2010, 6:06 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPNLosAngeles.com

Pete Carroll is walking around Pike Place Market and sipping Seattle's Best Coffee, but the football rivalry in Los Angeles is not over.

Not by a long shot.

What does UCLA's Rick Neuheisel think of his new rival, Lane Kiffin?

"I'm happy for Lane. I'm interested in all that happens in the Pac-10 and L.A.," Neuheisel said. "If this is good for him, we certainly congratulate him."

Asked about competing against Kiffin and a crew that includes his Kiffin's father, Monte, and recruiting savant Ed Orgeron, Neuheisel joked: "We did all right the last time we played them," referring to the Bruins' 19-15 win over Tennessee in Knoxville on Sept. 12.

That was just playful teasing.

But things could really heat up if USC indeeds lure Norm Chow away from Westwood to be its offensive coordinator.

Chow and his representatives are in the final stages of negotiations with USC, according to ESPN's Shelley Smith. But it's not a done deal yet.

"I've talked to his representative and he hasn't accepted a position anywhere," a UCLA spokesman said late Tuesday night.

He could not say whether Chow had been negotiating with any other school. Messages left for Chow on his cell phone were not returned.

UCLA sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince said that he had not heard from Chow but that he hoped he would stay with the Bruins.

"It would be a blow if he left, but we'd figure out a way to move on and succeed without him," Prince said. "But we're definitely hoping he stays. Coach Chow has been a big supporter of me in the last two years. He's backed me up in the times I've struggled and always given me the confidence to compete at this level. He's been a mentor to me and taught me so much on and off the field."

USC had reached out to Chow over the weekend to gauge his interest in returning as offensive coordinator. Chow had preferred to be considered as head coach, but USC was interested in him in a role similar to the one he held under Carroll from 2001 to 2004, a source familiar with Chow's thinking said.

Why would Chow leave Westwood and return to the school he unceremoniously left after the 2004 season? Money and the opportunity to work with USC's heralded quarterback Matt Barkley. He also would not have to uproot his family from its Manhattan Beach home.

Asked about the possibility of Chow's becoming his son's offensive coordinator, Barkley's father, Les, sounded thrilled.

"Matt just thinks so highly of Norm," Les Barkley said. "One of the reasons Matt considered UCLA out of high school was because Norm Chow was there. But in the end he just wanted to be a Trojan."

Last month, Chow told ESPNLosAngeles.com that he intended to stay at UCLA despite the precipitous drop in salary he'd have next season.

The buyout money he had been collecting from the Tennessee Titans the last two seasons was finished after this year, taking his annual salary from $1 million down to $690,000.

Chow said he preferred to remain in Los Angeles rather than chase a higher-paying job at another college but hinted that he'd really consider leaving only if the right NFL job came up.

"You're not in this business for the money," Chow said in December. "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."

Of course, at the time, there was no indication another college job in Los Angeles might come up this quickly.

If Chow leaves, Neuheisel's background as an offensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens should help ease the transition.

Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.