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LAKERS IN TURMOIL; IS USC FOOTBALL NEXT? CHOW MAY GO TO NFL IN RIFT WITH CARROLL.

Byline: Scott Wolf Staff Writer

Norm Chow, the offensive coordinator for the national champion USC football team, is contemplating leaving the school due to his strained relationship with head coach Pete Carroll.

Sources within the football program said Wednesday that they would not be surprised if Chow left, possibly for a job with the NFL's Tennessee Titans.

Although there's been no public rift between the two, Chow's current job duties are at risk and several sources believe Carroll would like to replace him with another assistant.

Chow - who makes approximately $500,000 at USC - is expected to meet with the Titans on Friday and though he prefers college football, would take the NFL job if offered, sources said.

Carroll denied any problems exist and said this week that he's completely satisfied with Chow and hopes Chow spurns the NFL to remain at USC.

``He's the offensive coordinator,'' Carroll said. ``He's a fantastic coach. I have nothing for you. There's nothing going on in that regard.''

But Carroll also said he's considering making Chow the Trojans' assistant head coach, a move that might not exactly be considered a promotion. According to Chow supporters, the switch would be a way of wresting control of the offense away from Chow and placing more power with Carroll.

Under that plan, Carroll could rehire Oakland Raiders assistant Steve Sarkisian as either offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach and grant a larger role to wide receivers coach Lane Kiffin.

Who would call plays is undetermined, even though Chow has called the plays the past four seasons at USC.

``I think they wouldn't mind if (Chow) left,'' said an associate of Carroll and Chow. ``I think it's about ego and maybe they are tired of Norm. They don't need him anymore.''

Carroll, Kiffin and Sarkisian met last week in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl. Carroll has also discussed this plan with several other people in the past two weeks, according to sources.

Chow declined comment for this story but he's told friends recently that he's been ``hurt'' and ``upset'' by the way he's being treated and thinks he might be forced out.

Carroll said Chow is happy at USC and that it's nonsense to think he would force Chow out.

``I think he loves it here. He's turned down opportunity after opportunity,'' Carroll said.

There's also an open rift between Chow and Kiffin, which became public during an Orange Bowl practice when the two quarreled in front of the team. Sources said relations between Chow and Sarkisian also soured because of recent developments, even though Chow coached Sarkisian at Brigham Young and hired him at USC in 2001.

Carroll's backers say Chow's merely overreacting to the current changes being considered for the coaching staff and uncertainty regarding his role. Carroll said he hasn't made any final decisions yet.

``I'm not ready yet; by early next week, I hope to have something done,'' Carroll said. ``We have to play it out.''

Exactly what could cause Carroll and Chow's falling out is unknown, although sources said there's been a growing resentment within the program over the way Chow is credited with revitalizing USC's offense. Carroll's frequently pointed out that he revamped USC's offense after the 2001 season, assumed a hands-on role in making key decisions and even ditched some of the terminology Chow used at Brigham Young.

``This isn't the BYU offense,'' Carroll said in December.

But whenever the media mentions USC's two Heisman Trophy winners the past three seasons, or the Trojans' explosive offense, Chow receives most of the credit. Carroll has stressed in bits and pieces during the past three years that the offense would not fall apart if Chow left.

An associate of Carroll and Chow said problems had festered for some time.

``It's been brewing,'' he said. ``You never know for sure what's happening behind closed doors.''

Chow's never been interested in coaching in the NFL, and rebuffed interest from the Arizona Cardinals last season. If he took the Titans job, it's believed it would be an escape route from USC.

There still remains the chance that Carroll will not change the staff at all and leave Chow in his current position. But many people who work in Heritage Hall wonder whether the relationship could be repaired following the current drama and notice a difference in the way the pair interacts.

``Norm knows it's a bad deal,'' said a current college coach who is friendly with Chow and Carroll.

CAPTION(S):

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Photo:

(color) Offensive coach Norm Chow is to meet with the Titans of the NFL.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 3, 2005
Words:762
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