Sun Devil Summer School: The Coaches - Frank KushPosted: Updated:
- 176 wins
- .764 winning percentage
- 6-1 bowl game record
- 19 winning seasons in 22 years
- 2 undefeated seasons
- 1975 Walter Camp Coach of the Year
- College Football Hall of Famer
Sun Devil icon.
It takes a certain degree of toughness and grit to become an All-American guard when you are only 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, but Frank Joseph Kush accomplished exactly that feat while playing at Michigan State. That hard-nosed attitude would come to define the man who has come to embody the ideals and peak performance of Sun Devil football.
Following his playing days, Kush would join the Army, rising to the rank of lieutenant before coming back to the sport he loved. He first found a job on Dan Devine's coaching staff at Arizona State, and after coaching the offensive and defensive lines, Kush would be named Devine's successor in 1958.
To some, it seemed like just the latest named in the coaching carousel, as Kush became the program's sixth head coach in 13 seasons. But not only would he bring unprecedented stability to ASU, he would elevate it to greatness.
The success in the early years was modest, at least in comparison to recent history. After Devine posted a 27-3-1 record in his three seasons, Kush led the team to a 7-3 mark in his first yea in 1958, and won a Border Conference title a season later.
Kush's stern, tenacious and unrelenting demeanor helped keep ASU a very good team throughout the 1960s, going 72-26-1 overall. That included another Border Conference crown in 1961 and a WAC title in 1969. Kush also created one of the most important traditions for ASU football when he established Camp Tontozona. While impressive on their own, these moves merely set the table for the greatest period in team history.
In 1970, the Sun Devils stormed through their schedule with a 10-0 record, and they earned their first bowl appearance since 1951. Their Peach Bowl victory in a blizzard over North Carolina helped give the Sun Devil program credibility on a national stage.
The 1971, 1972 and 1973 seasons all followed a similar script: Woody Green ran over everyone, Danny White set passing records, and Arizona State won the Fiesta Bowl. That 32-4 span was a remarkable run of excellence, yet the Sun Devils still found themselves fighting for national respect.
That would come in 1975. Kush again led the Sun Devils through the regular season undefeated. That set up yet another Fiesta Bowl invite, but this time the opponent was one of the elite teams in the nation: The Nebraska Cornhuskers.
While much of the rest of the nation gave WAC champion ASU little chance against the mighty 'Huskers, Kush ensured that the Sun Devils were more than ready. His team responded to the challenge, and Kush's own son Danny secured the victory with a late field goal.
"From the players' standpoint, this was probably the most important game since I have been here," said Kush after the game. "Not only was the game important for the recognition this team will receive, but it also helps gain recognition for the great teams and players we have had here in the past."
A rough rebuilding year in 1976 soon gave was to another pair of nine-win seasons in 1977 and 1978. Kush lost his only bowl game after the 1977 season, a 42-30 shootout loss in the Fiesta Bowl to Penn State, but ASU rebounded to defeat Rutgers in the 1978 Garden State Bowl, which would mark Kush's final bowl appearance.
During the 1979 season, former player Kevin Rutledge filed suit against the ASU over allegations over abuse. Over the course of the ensuing investigation, Kush was fired over accusations he interfered with the case, and the school was put on probation for a number of infractions that were later found. However, two years later, Kush was found to be not liable in the case.
Kush would go on to coach in the CFL, NFL and USFL, and his coaching career ended in 1986. He returned to ASU as a special assistant to the athletic director in 2000 and remains around the program to this day.
“Frank Kush was able to get out of me something that no one else could get," said legendary ASU quarterback Danny White. "He affected hundreds of athletes that he coached in that same way.”
During his tenure, Kush has 122 players go pro, 22 who became ASU Hall of Famers and 10 who were first round draft picks. In 1995, he received a richly deserved honor when he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. The next year, during the magical 1996 season, Kush was honored by ASU when they named the playing surface at Sun Devil Stadium "Frank Kush Field".
Quite simply, Frank Kush is Sun Devil football.