The fantastic four USC looked upon to renew its hopes after the departure of head coach Pete Carroll, has now become a trio. Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow announced that intends to stay in UCLA, stating that the Bruins "are building a good thing" and he wants to be a part of it.
Chow had been a rumored hire of USC after the Trojans replaced Pete Carroll and his departing staff with Lane Kiffin, who brings with him Defensive guru Monte Kiffin as well as recruiting bulldog Ed Orgeron. The move came less than a week after mainstay Pete Carroll announced a return to the NFL to become the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks.
Chow’s decision was not for lack of money. USC reportedly offered the former Trojan nearly double his Bruins salary of $650,000 to return to the club where he groomed three Heisman winners across four years.
Logically however, the lack of a deal made sense. Kiffin had already announced intent to call offensive plays for the Trojans, a move that would have sat poorly with the experienced Chow. He also likely harbored some snakebit feelings after finding himself the odd man out in an effort to make room for Kiffin, a turn of events that left a bad taste in the mouth of Chow.
Chow has also not impressed across his time in UCLA, where the offense ranked no higher than 88th in the nation during his time. The Offensive Coordinator had disagreements with head coach Rick Neuheisel over personnel decisions and offensive philosophies.
Initial excitement over the massive revamp of USC’s staff has tapered somewhat over the past few days. To add to Chow’s decision to remain with crosstown rival UCLA has been some question over the trio of former Volunteers attempting to sway Tennessee recruits by convincing them not to attend class so as to keep their status open.
The move would not violate any of the present NCAA rules, but raises an unwanted eyebrow in USC. The team already has a meeting in February to discuss the NCAA’s findings over a lengthy investigation of college’s possible violations regarding Reggie Bush, OJ Mayo, and possibly others (such as Joe McKnight).
For a team wishing to improve its image, and shake any doubts surrounding the hire of Kiffin (after multiple inquiries into his recruiting methods at Tennessee), a move regarded as perhaps not illegal, but potentially immoral is a step in the wrong direction.
Kiffin attempted to smooth the situation regarding Orgeron’s calling Tennessee recruits across his first days helming USC. He stated that calls were made, but denying that it was an overt attempt at recruitment.
Kiffin’s account detailed that several players and parents had already brought questions and concerns to him and his departing staff, and that Orgeron was simply attempting to lay out the overall situation and explain things to the players in question, so that they could better know where they stood. Kiffin denied the idea that anything beyond that occurred. He did add however, that if recruits from the Tennessee program contact Kiffin or Orgeron of their own accord, that was a different matter and they would be happy to listen.
Any transition from a respected coach with such a successful tenure will have its rocky points. The team’s first bumps in the road (missing out on their first, second, and third options) appeared to be cleared by bringing Kiffin back, along with the considerable talent surrounding the young head coach.
That said, the team has already endured two questionable situations in as many days with Kiffin being forced to address the potential recruitment of Tennessee players and misfire in attempting to hire back Norm Chow. Hopefully the transition will smooth out as the new staff settles in, the most important thing USC needs in the wake of both Carroll’s departure and sanction is stability. Now its up to Lane Kiffin to provide it.
For a closer look at the departure of Head Coach Pete Carroll See: