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100 Day Sun Devil Football Countdown to Kickoff, #3: Frank Kush

Frank Kush draws up a play (Photo: ASU)
Frank Kush draws up a play (Photo: ASU)

176 wins. A .764 winning percentage. A 6-1 record in bowl games. 19 winning seasons in 22 years. Two undefeated seasons. The 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 of Sun Devil football.

Following his playing days, Kush would join the army and rise to the rank of lieutenant before coming back to the sport he loved. He found a job on Dan Devine's coaching staff at Arizona State. After coaching the lines and helping the Sun Devils to a 27-3-1 record, Kush would be named Devine's successor.

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. He led the team to a 7-3 mark in his first season in 1958, and won a Border Conference title in his second year.

His stern, tenacious and unrelenting demeanor helped keep ASU a very good team throughout the 1960s, going 72-26-1 mark, including 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. That merely set the table for the greatest period in team history.

In 1970, the Sun Devils stormed through their schedule, and with a 10-0 record, they made their first bowl appearance since 1951. The 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. It was a remarkable run of excellence, yet the Sun Devils still fought for national respect.

That would come in 1975. Kush again led the Sun Devils through the regular season undefeated (with a little help from this play). That set up 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, 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 in the Fiesta Bowl to Penn State, but 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. Earlier this month, he gave an address to the current team during their return to Camp Tontozona.

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.

See the previous entries on House of Sparky's 100 day countdown here

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