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Chow Has The Chops To Win At Hawaii

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Norm Chow has been a winner at nearly every stop during his college coaching career, so there is no doubt he is someone who can make Hawaii a winner in spite of the challenges he faces. Christian Petersen/Getty Images.
Norm Chow has been a winner at nearly every stop during his college coaching career, so there is no doubt he is someone who can make Hawaii a winner in spite of the challenges he faces. Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

Drumming up sympathy for University of Hawaii head coach Norm Chow can be pretty difficult if you look at his situation on the surface. Making $550,000 a year to reside in a South Pacific island paradise hardly qualifies as hardship, but don’t let the laid-back attitude and postcard scenery fool you: Coaching a winner on the gridiron in Honolulu is hardly a luau on the beach.

Recruiting out-of-state talent requires Chow to sell an athlete on coming to the most isolated center of population on the entire planet. The closest road game (if you can even call them that) means flying scores of teenagers and early 20-somethings about 2,500 miles to San Diego. Home games are hosted at a dated stadium that the state doesn’t want to renovate and has no interest in replacing. And after a 3-9 debut season with only one win over an FBS team, it’s not the constant sunshine and 80-degree temperatures that are heating up Chow’s seat.

Starting to feel a tug at the heartstrings for Chow? Don’t. Despite a rough start last season and the logistical nightmares he faces being out on the islands, there are plenty of reasons to believe Chow can make the Warriors contenders in the Mountain West.

Hawaii may be Chow’s first gig as a head coach, but he’s been working in the college game since 1973 when he was a graduate assistant at BYU. Chow stayed with the Cougars until 1999 and was the primary play-caller for the 1984 national championship team. He won two more national championships as the offensive coordinator at USC in 2003 (AP national championship only) and 2004. If winning is learned behavior, the Warriors have a great teacher.

One of the primary reasons for Chow’s success has been his track record for player development — especially quarterbacks. The head Warrior is responsible for making Ty Detmer, Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer Heisman Trophy-winning signal callers. Other quarterbacks that thrived under Chow’s tutelage include Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Philip Rivers

Lastly, and probably most importantly, Chow knows how to recruit  his home state. This is critical when New Zealand is closer than New York City (4,385 miles to Auckland; 4,967 miles to NYC). Chow was born in the 50th state and graduated from Punahou School. He knows the schools that produce talented players and because he has been so successful coaching on the mainland, he knows if that talent can compete on a national level. Of the five recruits Chow has committed for 2014, three are from Hawaii. 

The task before Chow isn’t easy, but history suggests that his teams don’t stay down for long. If he gets the Warriors atop the MWC, he won’t have to travel far to find a nice vacation spot.