BY JIM DOOLEY – Emotions welled up more than once as the University of Hawaii’s new head football coach, Norm Chow, spoke about how much it means to him to have “come full circle” from his childhood days in Hawaii through a career at Mainland colleges and professional football and finally back to the Islands.
Chow, 65, said his highest priority will be academic achievement for his football players.
“We are going to graduate our student athletes,” he said at an afternoon news conference.
Number two on the list, he said, will be to “teach life lessons, core values” to his players.
Third on the list: “We’re gonna win football games. We will chase championships.”
And finally, he said, he will prepare a gifted few players for careers in professional football.
Chow will accept a salary of less than $600,000 per year – about half of what his recently-departed predecessor, Greg McMackin, was paid.
Savings will go to augmenting the salaries of his assistant coaching staff, although the net cost to the University will be less than McMackin’s salary, one University official said.
Chow did not want to talk about money, saying “money has nothing to do with this, with the chance to come home. How much can you pay for that?”
Chow grew up in Palolo Velley and graduated from Punahou School and the University of Utah, where he played offensive guard on the football team.
He returned to Hawaii as head coach at Waialua High School from 1970-72, then served for 27 years as a coach at Brigham Young University. His coaching career took him to North Carolina State, the University of Southern California, the Tennessee Titans in the National Football League, the University of California at Los Angeles and finally the University of Utah, where he has worked this year as offensive coordinator.
He has never served as head football coach since leaving Waialua, although he said today he turned down several opportunities on the Mainland because of family considerations.
Chow and his wife Diane have four children, including a daughter and son-in-law who live in Hawaii and work as teachers at Mid-Pacific Institute and Kamehameha Schools.
He still has to finish his coaching stint at Utah, which plays in an upcoming post-season bowl game, but said is anxious to begin work here.
“I’m fired up, I’m excited, I can’t wait to get going,” he said.
He is the first Asian American to serve as head football coach at a top-level football team, a distinction, he said, “that is very important to me.”
He described himself as “hardworking,” with a “demanding leadership style.”
Those that “survive” his rigorous program “will be ready to play football,” he said.
Chow said he has not begun assembling a staff of assistants but promised to “talk to the fellas that are here” as well as other candidates that he already has in mind.
He promised to stress recruiting of local players, although he joked that that part of the job initially may be difficult because he has spent much of his career telling Hawaii high school athletes “to leave home” and play on the Mainland.
Chow predicted changes to the UH “run and shoot” offensive scheme run by McMackin and June Jones, now head coach at Southern Methodist University.
“I’m not a run-and-shoot guy,” he said, favoring “more of a pro-style drop-back pass game.”
Changes to the offense will depend on the abilities of players already on the team, he said.
His teams, he said, “will take care of the football “ on offense and play “very aggressive defense with a lot of man-to-man” coverage.
Following the press conference, Chow headed to a reception thrown in his honor at Washington Place by Gov. Neil Abercrombie.