By Lance Umble for DieHardDevil.com
When the Sun Devils sprint out of the tunnel on Thursday night to kick off their 2011 season against UC Davis, a familiar face to ASU fans young and old will be in attendance. The name Frank Kush is as iconic and synonymous to ASU football as Bear Bryant is to the Crimson Tide.
Kush led the maroon and gold for 22 seasons from 1958-1979 and amassed an impressive record of 176-54-1. ASU was a perennial top 20 team in the 1970s under Kush and his resume in Bowl games was equally as impressive at 6-1.
During a six-season span, from 1970 through 1975, his teams had an unbelievable 62-9 record. During this timeframe, ASU was a perfect 5-0 in bowl games and two of its teams were undefeated. The 1970 team beat North Carolina 48-26 in the Peach Bowl, finished 11-0 and ended up ranked No. 6 nationally by the Associated Press. In 1975, Kush led ASU to a perfect 12-0 season, a 17-14 Fiesta Bowl win over Nebraska and a No. 2 national ranking. The Nebraska victory helped him earn National Coach of the Year honors that same year.
Kush won nine conference championships and had a dominant record against his cross-town rival from Tucson. In the last 14 times the Sun Devils faced the Wildcats under Kush, they were a remarkable 13-1. ASU won an astonishing 76% of their games under Kush and finished in the Top 10 on four occasions in the 1970s. In addition, Kush lead ASU to 21 consecutive victories, a streak that spanned three seasons. He also had winning streaks of 13 games (twice) and 12 games (twice).
Kush was known both inside the locker room and out as being one of the more physically and emotionally demanding coaches in the country. One of the more famous of Kush’s motivational tactics was called “Mount Kush.” Mount Kush was a brutally steep hill near Camp Tontozona in Payson, Arizona, the site of the Sun Devils’ pre-regular season training facility for decades. Players in need of a little extra conditioning and discipline in the opinion of the head coach would have to run wind sprints up and down that hill numerous times. Needless to say, players came into camp in excellent physical condition as to avoid the torment of the dreaded “Mount Kush.”
What Kush lacked in physical stature he made up for in heart. As a 170 pound guard at Michigan State, Kush went on to become an All-American in 1952. The Spartans were national champions his senior year. He would later be inducted into the Michigan State University Hall of Fame. His first coaching assignment was with an Army team at Fort Benning, Georgia. Kush came to Arizona State as an assistant to Dan Divine in 1955 and then 3 years later at the age of 29 was the head coach and undisputed leader of the team. He coached 30 All-Americans while at ASU and 129 of his players went on to play football professionally. In 1995, Kush was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Many ASU players will be playing their first game on “Frank Kush Field” on Thursday night. Hopefully, the spirit and fight that lived within the players of the Frank Kush era will be on display this week and throughout the 2011 season. Kush will be there personally to lay witness to what will hopefully be an exciting and successful year reminiscent of the teams he so proudly coached.
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