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Norm Chow exits gracefully

Norm Chow finally called around 7 p.m. and the first thing he did was apologize for his phone being off all day.

"I'm sorry about that, you understand, right?" he said. "There was just so much going on, my wife and I went to a movie. The 'King's Speech,' have you seen it?"

I had actually, last week with my mom.

"Boy was it good. It's going to win all the Academy Awards, don't you think?"

So yes, if you were wondering, Norm Chow is doing just fine after being replaced as UCLA's offensive coordinator Saturday.

"It worked out just perfectly," he said. "Rick [Neuheisel] did a nice job with [facilitating his exit at UCLA]. And [Utah] is a good football situation.

"I went to school there, you know? I have two degrees from there. I met my wife there, my kids were born in Salt Lake. Not many people can say they get to go full circle like that. "

Was he disappointed to be leaving UCLA before turning the Bruins program around?

"We're disappointed it didn't turn out the way we hoped it would, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort or a lack of teamwork," he said. "Rick and I are friends. I feel like we worked very very well together and it's just unfortunate that the results didn't show that.

"I told Rick, when all this settles down, the four of us [Chow and his wife, Diane and Neuheisel and his wife, Susan] should all go out to dinner. "

This is the way I'll remember Chow. Positive, unflappable and classy to the end. It's how his former players speak of him. And, it's how people at UCLA --even as negotiations for his settlement dragged on the last few weeks -- spoke of him as well.

What's been hard for anyone to figure out is why it didn't work out at UCLA. Why he wasn't able to work his magic for the Bruins as he has at every other place he has been. Why it ever came to a day like Saturday.

Did he and Neuheisel clash? Occasionally, yes. But it was more in terms of style than substance. Chow is laid back, Neuheisel is intense. Chow prefers to do his coaching in meeting rooms on Monday and Tuesday, Neuheisel does his on the field, sometimes --regrettably -- for national television cameras to capture.

"He's an offensive minded guy and an extremely bright guy," Chow said. "There are different ways to do the same thing, but we were always on the same page."

There is, however, a simple answer to the question that has nothing to do with Chow or Neuheisel.

Chow made his reputation by developing quarterbacks. At UCLA he never really had one to develop.

Remember 2008, when Patrick Cowan and Ben Olson suffered season-ending injuries on consecutive plays in fall practice?

Third-stringer Kevin Craft -- whom Neuheisel had signed only because he assumed Cowan or Olson would transfer after he chose a starter in spring ball -- immediately became the Bruins' starter.

Last year, redshirt freshman Kevin Prince earned the job, then tried to learn on the job as fast as he could. UCLA and Chow had high hopes for Prince this year, but he got hurt, missed most of fall practice and never really got healthy before having season-ending knee surgery midway through this year.

Richard Brehaut took over and did an admirable job, but it's never easy to take over midway through a season.

All of those sound like excuses in a business where only results matter.

Chow never publicly made them.

He ended up being one of the fall guys for UCLA's disappointing 4-8 season, but he already has mentally shifted to his next job.

"I'm old," he joked. "I love challenges. It keeps life going. It's all good.