Or should it be called the 800 lb. gorilla in the room...
I was a little surprised that there hasn’t been a little more noise about the most obvious storyline in regards to this weekend’s game against ucla. The “Showdown” between Pete Carroll and Norm Chow, but the stories are now finally starting to come out. There have been numerous accounts both on and off the record that I have read and have had told to me about the break-up of what could have been the greatest football accomplishments ever seen.
There is Pete Carroll the defensive guy who wasn’t even USC’s 2nd or 3rd pick to take over for the fired Paul Hackett who was out of football for a year after some average performances in the NFL with Jets and Patriots. Then there is Chow…the “Guru” as he has been labeled. He has developed and worked with some of the better QB’s in football in either college or the pros.
Both Carroll and Chow have tremendous egos and pride for the job they have done both together and individually. Numerous writers and pundits and others like to bring up the fact that SC hasn’t won and NC since Chow’s departure and that’s true but for s good as Chow is he only one NC at BYU before hooking up with Carroll for their incredible run from 2001-2005. As I have stated in the past one guy doesn’t make it happen…its symbiotic. Carroll is great recruiter, one of the best actually, while Chow has the gift of being able crack the personalities of his pupils to see how they tick just like he cracks opposing defenses tendencies to find their weak spots. Together these two proved to be unstoppable but with all great pairings it never lasts forever.
The parallels between the two programs couldn't be more obvious with USC rebuilding in 2001 with both Chow and defensive coach DeWayne Walker on the staff. USC put together some incredible recruiting classes that turned out to be one of the greatest offensive machines in the history of college football. As ucla builds from scratch after their experiment with Karl Dorrell they have some of the same attributes that USC had in 2001 but can they catch lightning in a bottle like USC did?
For the most part Chow has remained silent on the issue preferring to issue the standard boilerplate "no comment" but he finally opened to Gary Klein from the LAT.
The 62-year-old Chow -- after two days of declining to answer questions about his time at USC -- speaks briefly of winning games and championships and having fun with the Trojans. He thanks Carroll for giving him the chance to work in the Pacific 10 Conference and jump to the NFL.
"I have nothing but good memories of what happened there," he says of USC. "You move on, just like in football you move on to the next play.
"There was nothing negative about my time there. I made some tremendous friendships and relationships that will last a lifetime."
But he won't talk about the specifics of his departure. And he won't talk about Sarkisian. The kid he mentored at BYU. The young coach he recommended to USC as a graduate assistant in 2001.
Clarkson, whose work with USC recruit Matt Barkley and UCLA recruit Richard Brehaut keeps him in touch with both staffs, senses a divide. He says: "Norm really felt like [Sarkisian] was an extension of his family."
Of course I am not completely buying Chow's line as there has been plenty put out there off the record about how he supposedly really feels and his lack of even bringing Sarkisian up by name further adds fuel to that line of thinking.
It's a shame that it couldn't have lasted longer but it is what it is and there is plenty of blame to go around. No one gets away without some dirt on their hands in this situation.
Most SC fans that I have that I talked to really haven't brought the Chow angle up. Most want to beat ucla and bad but very few have have mentioned beating Chow by name. Most of that is because ucla simply isn't very good this season. I can guarantee you that if ucla was much better and if there was something big on the line for both teams that the Chow angle would be a much bigger deal. This year not so much...
For the most part Chow's years before USC pretty much kept him under the radar outside of football. His time at BYU was significant in regards to football and the work he did at NC State with Phillip Rivers also gets attention as he continues to be the best in the game as an offensive genius. But once he got to USC and started winning it became more than just football. The spotlight got a lot brighter and magnifying glass got a little more in focus and other little quirks and oddities made their way to the surface. When you're the only football game in town people tend to take a closer look at things outside the lines, away from the X's and O's...that's just how it is in L.A.
There is no question that ucla will get better and Chow will be a part of that but until ucla becomes relevant the talk about what could have been at USC will continue to be in the background. Maybe not as loud as it once was but it will still be there. Most people have moved on the soap opera aspect of this break up but those who love the game will always wonder what if........