Frank Kush: Wikis


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Frank Kush
Title Head Coach
College N/A
Sport Football
Team record N/A
Born January 20, 1929 (1929-01-20) (age 80)
Place of birth Windber, Pennsylvania
Career highlights
Overall 176-54-1
Coaching stats
College Football DataWarehouse
1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 WAC Conference Championship
Playing career
1950-1952 Michigan State
Position Defensive Lineman
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1958-1979 Arizona State

Frank Kush (born January 20, 1929) was a football coach who most prominently served as head coach at Arizona State University for more than two decades, and also worked in the same capacity for three different professional leagues. He is of Polish descent and was inducted into the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame. He was born in Windber, Pennsylvania.

He played three years as a 5-7, 150-pound defensive lineman for Michigan State University from 1950-1952, earning All-American honors and helping the Spartans capture a national championship in his last season.


College coaching career

After a stint in the U.S. Army, where Kush rose to the rank of first lieutenant as he coached the Fort Benning football team, he accepted an assistant coaching position at Arizona State under former assistant Spartan coach Dan Devine. When Devine left in 1958 to become the head coach at the University of Missouri, Kush was promoted to the position, which he would hold for the next 22 years.

During his time at Arizona State, Kush was known for being one of the most physically demanding coaches in the game. His daily football practices in the heat of the Arizona desert are still the stuff of legend today. One of his drills was known as "Bull in the Ring", whereupon he would have the players form a circle. He would put a player in the middle (most often, a player he felt needed "motivation"), call out a uniform number, and blow his whistle. That player would charge the player in the middle and the two would engage in contact until Kush blew the whistle again. Whichever of the two players gave the best effort would go back to the circle, while the player "dogging it" would stay in until Kush decided he could quit. Former NFL and Arizona State player Curley Culp once broke a teammate's facemask during this drill.

Another of his drills (which was designed to see if his running backs could take punishment carrying the ball) consisted of having only a center, quarterback, and two running backs line up on offense, with no other offensive lineman, and run running plays against the entire defense. Kush would run a running back into the line time and time again so he could get used to the pounding he would take in games.

The most famous of Kush's motivational techniques was called "Mount Kush." Mount Kush was a steep hill near the Sun Devils' practice facility with several large rocks, cacti, and no shade from the Arizona sun. If a player especially needed discipline in Kush's opinion, that player would have to run up and down that hill numerous times.

During his lengthy career in the desert, Kush compiled a record of 176-54-1, with only two losing seasons. In his first eleven years, he captured two conference titles and finished runnerup five times. That success led to him accepting the head coaching job at the University of Pittsburgh on January 4, 1969. However, just five days later, Kush had a change of heart and returned to Arizona State.

Kush's return would begin a memorable era in Sun Devil football history with five consecutive Western Athletic Conference championships as the team won 50 of 56 games from 1969 to 1973. During this time, Arizona State won the 1970 Peach Bowl and the first three editions of the Fiesta Bowl. In 1974, the team dropped to 7-4, but bounced back with authority the following year when they went 12-0, capping the year with a thrilling 17-14 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Fiesta Bowl, a game in which Kush's son, Danny, kicked three field goals, including the game winner.

A down year in 1976 saw the team fall to 4-7, but another comeback resulted the next year with a 9-3 mark. In that year's Fiesta Bowl, the Sun Devils lost a bowl game for the only time under Kush's leadership, with a 42-30 defeat to Penn State. In 1978, Kush's team once again finished 9-3, this time defeating Rutgers University in the Garden State Bowl. That win would be one of the final highlights of Kush's tenure as controversy and scandal the next year toppled him from his head coaching position.

Dismissal from Arizona State

In September 1979, former Sun Devil punter Kevin Rutledge filed a $1.1 million lawsuit against the school, accusing Kush and his staff of mental and physical harassment that forced him to transfer. The most dramatic charge was that Kush had punched Rutledge in the mouth after a bad punt in the October 28, 1978, game against the University of Washington. During the next few weeks, overzealous fans turned things ugly when the insurance office of Rutledge's father suffered a fire and the family's attorney received two death threats.[1]

On October 13, 1979, Kush was fired as head coach, just three hours before the team's home game against Washington, with athletic director Fred Miller citing Kush's alleged attempts to pressure players and coaches into keeping quiet. Kush coached the game, with the Sun Devils pulling off an emotional 12-7 upset of the sixth-ranked Huskies, fueled by the angry crowd incensed by the decision. After the game ended, Kush was carried off the field by his team.[1] The win gave him a 3-2 record on the season, but all three victories were later forfeited when it was determined that Arizona State had used ineligible players.

After nearly two years, Kush would be found not liable in the case, but would be off the sidelines during 1980, the first time in more than 30 years that he had been away from the game. The case itself would have far-reaching implications for coaches everywhere, making them consider the different ways to best motivate and/or punish players.

Despite his problems with Rutledge, most of Kush's former players regard him with high respect for instilling discipline, motivation, and work ethic in their lives.

Future NFL players that played under Kush at Arizona State include Charley Taylor, Curley Culp, Danny White, Benny Malone, Mark Malone, and John Jefferson. Baseball Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson also played two years of football at Arizona State for Kush on a football scholarship before switching to baseball.

Professional coaching career

Kush moved to the Canadian Football League the following year, serving as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. In his only season with the team, he led his squad to an 11-4-1 mark and a berth in the CFL Eastern Conference championship game. Controversy followed him to the CFL, however, with Kush quarreling with some Ti-Cats players when he attempted to ban the common practice of taping shoes and ankles.[2]

That performance helped Kush return to the United States when the Baltimore Colts hired him in 1982. During the strike-shortened season, the Colts had the dubious record of being the first NFL team since the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers to not win a game during the season, finishing 0-8-1. John Elway's refusal to play for the Colts after they chose him first overall in the 1983 draft has been attributed to his desire not to play for Kush.[3]

The Colts improved the following year with a 7-9 record, then moved to Indianapolis during the off-season. After just four wins in fifteen games in 1984, Kush quit on December 13, just days before the final game of the season. Citing a desire to be closer to friends and family, Kush accepted a three-year contract with the United States Football League's Arizona Outlaws.

However, the league folded in August 1986, with Kush then living off his personal services contract with Outlaws owner Bill Tatham by offering assistance to beginners in a local youth football league, joking, "I'm the highest-paid Pop Warner coach in the country." Kush also used his disciplinarian image to serve as director of the Arizona Boys Ranch, a facility used to reform juvenile offenders.

Life after coaching

In 1995, Kush was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, then was welcomed back to Arizona State the next year. On September 21, 1996, the school held Frank Kush Day and announced that the playing field at Sun Devil Stadium would be named "Frank Kush Field" in his honor. On the same night Arizona State went on to upset then #1 Nebraska in a dramatic 19-0 shut-out, handing the Cornhuskers their first loss in over two seasons. In addition to the field honors, a bronze statue was placed outside the stadium.

On July 26, 2000, Kush was officially hired by Arizona State as an assistant to the athletic director, serving as a fund-raiser for the athletic department.

Head coaching record

Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl Coaches# AP°
Arizona State Sun Devils (Border Conference/Western Athletic Conference/Pac 10 Conference) (1958–1979)
1958 Arizona State 7-3 4-1 2nd
1959 Arizona State 10-1 5-0 1st
1960 Arizona State 7-3 3-2 3rd
1961 Arizona State 7-3 3-0 1st
1962 Arizona State 7-2-1 1-1 18
1963 Arizona State 8-1 3-0 13
1964 Arizona State 8-2 0-2
1965 Arizona State 6-4 3-1 2nd
1966 Arizona State 5-5 3-2 T-2nd
1967 Arizona State 8-2 4-1 2nd 20
1968 Arizona State 8-2 5-1 T-2nd
1969 Arizona State 8-2 6-1 1st
1970 Arizona State 11-0 7-0 1st W 48-26 Peach Bowl 8 6
1971 Arizona State 11-1 7-0 1st W 45-38 Fiesta Bowl 6 8
1972 Arizona State 10-2 5-1 1st W 49-35 Fiesta Bowl 13 13
1973 Arizona State 11-1 6-1 T-1st W 28-7 Fiesta Bowl 10 9
1974 Arizona State 7-5 4-3 3rd
1975 Arizona State 12-0 7-0 1st W 17-14 Fiesta Bowl 2 2
1976 Arizona State 4-7 4-3 3rd
1977 Arizona State 9-3 6-1 T-1st L 30-42 Fiesta Bowl 18 18
1978 Arizona State 9-3 4-3 T-4th W 34-18 Garden State Bowl 19
1979 Arizona State 0-5** 0-3** 10th
Arizona State: 173-57-1
Total: 173-57-1 (.751)
      National Championship         Conference Title         Conference Division Title
Indicates BCS bowl game. #Rankings from final Coaches Poll.
°Rankings from final AP Poll.


Sporting positions
Preceded by
Dan Devine
Arizona State Sun Devils Head Coaches
Succeeded by
Bob Owens
Preceded by
Barry Switzer
Walter Camp Coach of the Year
Succeeded by
Frank R. Burns
Preceded by
John Payne
Hamilton Tiger-Cats Head Coaches
Succeeded by
Bud Riley
Preceded by
Mike McCormack
Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts Head Coaches
Succeeded by
Rod Dowhower


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