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Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Will Norm Chow return to UCLA in 2010?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

UCLA dominated the second half to beat Temple 30-21 in the EagleBank Bowl on Tuesday, but a big question hangs over the victory: What direction will the Bruins struggling offense take going forward?

In other words: Will offensive coordinator Norm Chow return in 2010?

T.J. Simers of the LA Times asked Chow that very question after the bowl game and didn't get a clear answer.

His answer, nothing but a smile after the bowl win, and when the question was repeated, Chow said, "Check back next week."

Hmm. Chow was a little more chatty here, but he hardly closed the door on the notion that he might not return in 2010.

Couple of notable issues here.

First, Chow and head coach Rick Neuheisel had different takes on the Bruins quarterback situation this season. Chow was all-in with redshirt freshman Kevin Prince. Neuheisel wanted to see more of true freshman Richard Brehaut.

Neuheisel never hid that there was a difference of opinion but he also insisted there was no rift between the two.

There's another issue: Money. UCLA is not known for handing out big money to coaches, particularly assistant coaches. And Chow will cost the Bruins if he comes back in 2010.

Neuheisel was able to hire Chow in 2008 because of some creative negotiating. When UCLA hired Chow, he was due $1 million over each of the next two years -- 2008 and 2009 -- from the Tennessee Titans, who fired him after he'd signed a two-year contract extension. Chow's base salary with UCLA his first two seasons was a manageable $250,000 plus a $50,000 talent fee.

But Chow's three-year contract with UCLA was backloaded because of his Titans contract, which deducted his UCLA salary but paid him the remainder of his $1 million annual salary. In 2010, his deal with the Titans over, Chow is due a $140,000 talent fee as well as a $250,000 retention bonus on top of his base salary.

That retention bonus will be paid to Chow on the first day of spring practices, according to a 2008 report on the contract in the Los Angeles Daily News.

So, for whatever reason, if Chow doesn't return to UCLA this spring, the school will save $250,000, though it obviously will have to pay off the final year of Chow's contract if he is terminated.

Simers, however, throws out an intriguing scenario. There's a certain school across town that hasn't won a national championship since Chow left.

How's this for a devilish thought? Would USC try to bring Chow back, thereby appeasing irritated Trojans fans unhappy with the play-calling, while heightening the tension between UCLA and USC?

"That'd be interesting," Chow said with another grin.

Again, hmm.