Norm Chow visits Kaua‘i

PUHI — For nearly 30 minutes, University of Hawai‘i football head coach Norm Chow stood and listened as figure after figure praised his hiring.

“We wanted somebody to energize the fan base and put people in the stadium,” Sen. Ronald Kouchi said. “Coach Chow fit that bill.”

The praise didn’t stop with the Kaua‘i senator. Kaua‘i mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. rumbled through an excited speech about the new coach, saying that Chow had provided a new spark and vision to the UH football program.

But as Chow came to the front of the room to address the nearly 100 patrons at the “Meet the Coach” event put on by the Na Koa Football Club at Kaua‘i Community College, the veteran coach advised those on hand to view the upcoming season with perspective.

“We have to temper our enthusiasm for the schedule were about to play,” Chow told the crowd. With the Warriors scheduled to open the season as 38 1/2 point underdogs to USC on Sept. 1, Chow said to judge the Warriors season opener not by the final score, but by the improved effort from last year’s disappointing 6-7 season under recently retired head coach Greg McMackin. However, the coach didn’t rule out a potential upset.

“What bigger challenge is there?” he said. “We tell our kids every single day that we’re going to fight. The ball is oblong. It bounces sometimes. Will we be successful? I don’t know. I have no idea. But we will play hard and hopefully we’ll play smart, but whatever happens, we’ll accept the consequences.”

With former Kaua‘i stars Sean Shigematsu and Siasau Matagiese on hand, the theme of the event was Chow’s ability to re-energize the outer island community. Speaker after speaker stressed how important it is to not only fill Aloha Stadium on Saturdays, but to remind everyone that the Warriors are Hawai‘i’s team, not just O‘ahu’s.

“There is a big, big push to reach out to the Neighbor Islands,” Carvalho, a former UH player, said. “He’s giving our kids a look.”

Kouchi said Chow’s ability to recruit island talent was one of the biggest positives of Chow’s hiring. He said for too long top island talent has left for the Mainland, but with Chow — an O‘ahu native and former NFL offensive coordinator — recruiting locals won’t be a problem.

“Do you seriously think if Norm Chow walks into a home that that man is not coming to UH?” he asked, to the applause of the crowd.

Chow said when the Hawai‘i position opened, he was initially interested in the job. Comfortable with his offensive coordinator job at Utah, he said football coaches are grateful when they have a job and don’t sit around planning their next step. But when he was approached and interviewed by UH officials, something changed.

“It became evident, very evident, of what this program meant to the people in that room,” he said. “The way they expressed what they wanted to get done at this university, it made me realize what a dream job it would be.”

As for the upcoming season, Chow said he’s not sure what to expect. The Warriors will be playing their first season as a member of the Mountain West Conference after leaving the Western Athletic Conference last season. Chow had formerly coached in the MWC while a coach at BYU. With conference powers such at Boise State and Texas Christian University leaving the MWC in the next few seasons, Chow said the future of the MWC is up in the air, but it’s certainly a move in the right direction for the Warriors.

“It is a step up from the WAC, that I can tell you,” Chow said.

Matagiese, whom Chow said will be a starter on the defensive line heading into fall camp, said he’s already noticed a difference with the new coach. While the former Waimea Menehune said the coach is nice and friendly off the field, during spring workouts Chow was complete business.

“Practices are a lot harder and faster,” Matagiese said. “It’s much more focused.”

That focus is something the Warriors will need heading into the Sept. 1 matchup against the presumtive No. 1 Trojans. Chow and his new staff could have asked for an easier first-game matchup, but “what is life without challenges?” Chow asked.

“We want to compete every single day and we need your support,” he said. “That’s where we are and we’re awfully proud.”

• Tyson Alger, sports writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or by emailing talger@ thegardenisland.com. Follow him on twitter.com/tysonalger.

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