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Asian Week: Norm Chow–First Asian American Head Football Coach

Norman ChowNorm Chow last season became the first Asian American head football coach in NCAA history.

He returned to Hawaii to lead the University of Hawaii into the Mountain West Conference.

Chow talked to Rick Quan for Asian Week about the long road he had to travel to become head coach.

Chow started as an offensive lineman at Utah and was named to the All WAC first team his senior year.

He went into the coaching ranks at Brigham Young University and coached such quarterbacks as Jim McMahon and Steve Young.

He spent 29 years at BYU, but knew it was time to leave when the school’s vice president made a racist comment he remembers vividly to this day.

“It was bad, it was bad,” Chow told Quan.  “I don’t know if you want me to go into real detail but they were describing how they were building some new facilities. I was sitting in the front row and was told that they had all the—you want me to use the word—had all the Chinaman lined up ready to go to work. And at that point in time, I realized I was in the wrong spot. My buddies could see I was very upset about it all and when I went to the athletic director who understood , he went to the Vice President and was told he didn’t know Norm was Chinese. I said to myself what difference does that make, you know. But anyway it was time and it was unfortunate. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. I think I quickly realized where I stood in the coaching profession ”

His biggest disappointment was not getting the head coaching position at Stanford.

Did race have anything to do with it, asked Quan.

“Sigh, you know Rick , I’ve not spent too much time thinking about that . I always like to think I’m a football coach who happen to be Asian, but you can’t help but feel that way. You know , well no one, not many other Asians in this crazy business . Maybe people were a little reluctant because of that. And then I think when people look for head coaches , they look for a certain type of person. You know a younger blonde hair guy, an older African American. Whatever it is, they have that image of who they want to look for in a head coach and obviously I didn’t fit.”

Chow left for North Carolina state where he coached quarterback Philip Rivers, but his big break came when he was hired as offensive coordinator at the University of Southern California.

He coached Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart and was named top assistant coach in the country.

Then he spent three seasons as offensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. That was followed by stops in Utah and UCLA before getting the head coaching job last season at the University of Hawaii.

You can hear Chow’s thoughts about that in Asian Week




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