Norm Chow is certainly not the first new college head coach to say that his players’ academic performance is a top priority.
But the newly named Warrior football coach will be held accountable close to home. Daughter Maile Chow and her husband Denny Ono are both Oʻahu educators, at Mid-Pacific Institute and Kamehameha Schools, respectively. Son Cameron and his wife Jane teach in Manhattan Beach, Calif.
So Chow had credibility when he stood at the press conference announcing his appointment as the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s 22nd head coach, holding his arms wide to represent the importance of education and pledging, “We are going to graduate our student athletes. That’s why young people go to school, to prepare for the rest of their lives.”
Family is obviously important to the man who choked up while thanking his—including wife Diane, at home nursing sick grandchildren. “You never stop trying to please your parents,” he said of his his 94-year-old mother, who divides her time between Hawaiʻi and Idaho.
His eldest son Carter, who is also his agent, sat in the audience with wife Sarah’s parents, Honolulu residents Abe and Sally Lee, and posed briefly for a photo with his father at a reporter’s request.
“He’s a bachelor,” Chow hinted about youngest son Chandler, a California designer, perhaps recruiting for a another local daughter-in-law.
After all, if there’s one thing he’s learned in nearly four decades of collegiate coaching, it’s that you start recruiting close to home.
Every team in the Pac-12 Conference has players from Hawaiʻi, Chow told reporters. “For years, I’d tell people to leave home. No longer! I’m going to say stay at home and make us proud.”
An offensive specialist
It has been 39 years since the Pālolo boy and Punahou School alumnus left the Waialua High School head coach position to become a graduate assistant at Warrior arch-rival Brigham Young University.
He earned his EdD in educational psychology there while working his way up to assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at BYU.
Since 2000, he has worked with quarterbacks at the North Carolina State, University of Southern California and UCLA, spent three years in the National Football League with the Tennessee Titans and coached tight ends at the University of Utah.
Along the way, he was offensive coordinator for three national championship teams, tutored three Heisman Trophy winners and six NFL first-round draft picks and earned national Assistant Coach of the Year three times. He is the first Asian American to head a major collegiate football program.
“Obviously Norm is one of the best offensive minds in the country,” said Athletics Director Jim Donovan. “His wide-open offense and name recognition will only help us in recruiting the top talent to our university and football program.”
Donovan opened the press conference pitching season ticket sales as the best way to support UH Mānoa athletics.
“This position comes with high expectations. It should also come with strong support,” added Mānoa Chancellor Virginia Hinshaw.
“I get that,” Chow said. “I am responsible for putting together a product that represents all of the University of Hawaiʻi and all of the state of Hawaiʻi and make us proud.”
Doing so will require hard work. And though Chow was as quick with a quip as a tear, he promised to have the hardest working coaching staff around. He described his leadership style as demanding. “Those players who survive will be prepared to play football,” he said.
“I’m enthusiastic, but enthusiasm has to be tempered with understanding” of challenges facing a team coming off a losing season, entering a new conference and facing some probable powerhouses. “If you didn’t want challenges, you shouldn’t be in this business,” he shrugged.
For now, aside from a desire to help Utah beat Georgia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl in Texas Christmas Eve, Chow’s primary emotion is gratitude. “Thank you for allowing me to come home,” he said. “How many people are fortunate enough to go full circle.”
Did you know?
- Holds a BA in health, physical education and recreation and master’s in health, physical education and recreation/special education from the University of Utah
- Was named to the Utah’s All-Century Team as an offensive lineman
- Played one year for the Saskatchewan Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League
- Was named NCAA Division I-A Offensive Coordinator of the Year by American Football Monthly for the second time in 2002
- Coached NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young