- Ramona Shelburne, ESPN Senior Writer
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All of a sudden Norm Chow has become the hottest name in college football.
At least as far as USC and UCLA are concerned.
With Lane Kiffin and his entourage landed, settled and introduced at USC, the tug-of-war over the most respected offensive coordinator in the land heated up Wednesday.
UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel said he spoke with Chow on Wednesday afternoon and his offensive coordinator "assured me he wants to be at UCLA."
And that's more like a BUT.
"That being said, no one would ever be angry at somebody if they got a blockbuster deal and felt like they couldn't turn it down," Neuheisel said. "All I know is what Norm Chow told me, that he is committed to UCLA."
USC athletic director Mike Garrett confirmed that USC is interested in Chow but admitted that the decision was not his to make.
"I would really like to add [Chow] and a couple other people, but the reality is I can only add them as they accept," Garrett told ESPN in an interview that will air on SportsCenter.
"It's not going to be a bidding war. Lane [Kiffin] is going to have to go out and fill the rest of the squad out. It's really Lane's call."
On Wednesday, Chow's agent, Don Yee, said there finally was contact initiated by a USC representative who expressed serious interest in Chow. Yee said the conversation was brief but both sides agreed to talk again soon.
Yee was adamant there was no previous contact or negotiations involving himself, Chow or with Carter Chow, an attorney with Yee's agency who is the son of the UCLA offensive coordinator.
Neuheisel said that he had not given Chow a firm deadline to make a decision but stressed the importance of resolving the issue quickly because national signing day is less than three weeks away and UCLA has a big recruiting weekend scheduled.
"Coach Chow knows enough about college football and the signing period to know this is a critical time," Neuheisel said. "Hopefully it will not play out much longer. But I want to honor his opportunity to make a living, do the best he possibly can for himself. I also have a program that's sacred and deserves a commitment.''
With Chow in the final year of his contract, and set to take a hefty pay cut (from $1 million to $640,000) because the money he was being paid by the Tennessee Titans is up after this season, long term stability seems to be a key issue.
Neuheisel wouldn't comment on the prospect of an extension but addressed it indirectly.
"Obviously there can be movement in that regard. That's for the people who sign the checks and make those decisions. With respect for me, I want to know that my assistant coaches want to be here."
Where Norm Chow wants to be is what everyone wants to know.
Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN's Shelley Smith and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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