SPLICE OF LIFE; VIDEO TEAM IS INDISPENSABLE COG IN UCLA FOOTBALL PROGRAM.
It's nearly 4 a.m. on an October Sunday and inside UCLA's Morgan Center athletic building, video coordinator Ken Norris is beginning to fret. He has six hours to get the previous day's victory over Oregon State video-ready for each Bruins coach to review.
Normally, the overnight job allows for a few hours sleep on the office couch. But probably not this night. The Morgan Center power will be shut off at dawn, paralyzing Norris and his $350,000 worth of video equipment.
He points in the direction of the Wooden Center, where electricians are preparing to power down.
``Those guys don't know what they're doing to me,'' Norris said. ``They're killing me. I asked for a separate generator so we could keep working, but they denied me. They don't understand.''
Few do. Norris and his assistant, Eric Kowal, have the most unusual job in the athletic department, and one of the most important. Several years ago the NCAA outlawed scouting, which has forced football teams to rely on video to prepare for opponents.
``We use it to find out what our opponent's philosophy is, what their tendencies are, who their personnel is,'' Bruins coach Bob Toledo said. ``Without Ken and Eric, we'd be in big trouble. What you see on Saturday would be guesswork.''
Norris and Kowal work 85-90 hours per week during the football season. Their cycle begins Saturday morning, when they haul cameras to the stadium in UCLA's video van. They film each play from two angles - high above midfield and the end zone. Later, they'll intertwine the two, so coaches can see each play from both angles.
After the game, Norris and Kowal grab dinner and retire to their cramped, 15-foot by 20-foot office in the northwest corner of the Morgan Center, where they'll spend the next 24 hours breaking down the game, splicing and dicing each play with the aid of a $57,000 Avid computer.
Norris' office has so much video equipment it looks like a giant airplane cockpit. In addition to the Avid, which serves as the operation's central nervous system, he oversees 24 VCRs, seven TV monitors, five computers, hundreds of videotapes and a $5,500 waveform vector scope - a hypnotic instrument, straight out of an FAA catalog, that adjusts tint and color on the various signals.
Norris heads home to Granada Hills at 9 p.m. Sunday - if he's lucky. On Mondays, he makes highlight tapes of the weekly award winners for Toledo to show before practice. Some of Norris' best videos, in fact, are motivational.
He created a stirring tape for Jim and Sally Harrick after the 1995 NCAA basketball title, combining their favorite song, Kenny Rogers' ``Through the Years,'' with NCAA Tournament highlights. When Harrick saw it for the first time, in Norris' office, he broke down in tears.
Before this season's victory over Arizona, Norris combined highlights of former Bruin Jamir Miller sacking a quarterback with a tiger pursuing an antelope. The fatal, jugular bite came just before Miller crunched the quarterback. No wonder UCLA played its most physical game of the season.
On Tuesdays during football season, opponent video arrives. Pac-10 rules allow teams to exchange tapes 10 days before kickoff. While the Bruins were preparing for Cal on Oct. 25, Norris and Kowal were breaking down tape of Stanford for the Nov. 1 game.
It takes three days to prepare opponent video. The process begins with Norris (and a coach) mapping each play from at least four games. They have codes for everything, depending on down and distance, hash mark, formation and personnel. Norris enters the codes into the computer, which records the plays on various VCRs based on coding.
The resulting tapes are ``cut ups,'' and they're the heart of UCLA's preparation. When the staff arrived on Sunday after the Cal victory, each defensive coach received separate cut-ups of Stanford on first-and-10, on second-and-short, on third-and-long. There were separate tapes of the Cardinal using its base offense, using three receivers, using double tight ends and using one back, from midfield and the goal line. Cut ups were made based on starters and reserves, right hash mark and left.
When defensive coordinator Rocky Long designed his game plan, he knew what play Stanford had a tendency to run on second-and-short, from the right hash mark, with a double-tight end formation and one tailback.
Each offensive coach was handed cut-ups of Stanford's defense based on down and distance, base personnel, nickel packages, blitz packages, goal-line packages, and so on. By Thursday afternoon, Norris has produced 300-400 tapes.
``Reviewing the video is how we were able to run the swinging gate against Cal,'' Toledo said. ``We saw they waited for the signal from the sideline and then flip-flopped their linemen. They weren't ready to play when the ball was set, so we designed something to take advantage.''
Before video, teams relied on film - the football-scouting equivalent of the horse and buggy. Norris, a Sylmar native, got his start in the business splicing film part-time for the Rams. The NFL switched to video in the mid-'80s, and Norris attended Sony seminars to stay on the cutting edge, eventually becoming a full-time assistant.
When UCLA's longtime film coordinator, Stan Troutman, quit in 1989, he offered the job to Norris. On March 10, he accepted. On March, 11, he got married.
``Now that was a great weekend,'' he said.
UCLA's defensive coaches have used film/video for years, but former offensive coordinator Homer Smith wasn't very interested. He had too many problems of his own to worry about what an opponent might do. But video was a big part of Toledo's background at Oregon and Texas A&M. When he replaced Smith in 1994, he asked for more (and better) equipment. Norris' job immediately got tougher, and Kowal was hired full-time.
``The use of video is one of the biggest changes in football,'' said Bob Field, UCLA's longtime assistant and former defensive coordinator. ``During the days of film, you had to go through a reel and break pieces off. You'd tack them to a wall and tape similar pieces underneath, then splice them together. You could only put each play on one reel.''
With video, Norris can record the same play on countless tapes - and usually does. He also coordinates video for basketball coach Steve Lavin and many other UCLA teams, but everyone knows football comes first. Grueling as it is, he can't imagine life any other way.
``Growing up, I didn't have a lot of discipline,'' he said. ``I worked a lot of odd jobs - pizza parlor, gas station, pest control. The film work gave my life some meaning. Without it, I'd probably be in Sylmar working at a gas station.''
PHOTO (color) Ken Norris, left, video coordinator for UCLA athletics, and assistant Eric Kowal work 85-90 hours per week during the football season.
Myung J. Chun / Daily News
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Nov 11, 1997|
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