Arizona State winningest football coach Frank Kush dies at 88

Longtime member of the Arizona State University athletics family and winningest football coach in school history Frank Kush passed away Thursday, June 22 at 88.

Coach Kush served in many different roles at ASU since 1955, most recently as an ambassador for Sun Devil Athletics. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame for his accomplishments on the football field, according to a press release.

“Frank Kush is Sun Devil football. Frank was the architect of Sun Devil football and is revered by all Sun Devils everywhere,” ASU Vice President for University Athletics Ray Anderson said in a prepared statement.

“He’s a college football Hall of Famer, he’s in our Hall of Distinction and the field at Sun Devil Stadium is named after him. Today, he and his family are in our hearts.”

While Coach Kush arrived at ASU in 1955 as an assistant under former head coach Dan Devine, his head coaching stint did not begin until Dec. 22, 1957, a release states.

His run as head coach ran until 1979, during which he won a school record 176 games while losing only 54 and drawing in one. During that time, he also led ASU to seven Western Athletic Conference Championships and a winning season in 19 of his seasons at the school.

He also led the Sun Devils to six victories in seven bowl games, including the 1970 Peach Bowl and 1975 Fiesta Bowl, capping off a pair of undefeated seasons.

“Coach Kush built ASU into a national football power,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said in a prepared statement. “He taught us how to make football work, and he put ASU on the map long before it was a full-scale university.

“Throughout his life he maintained his strong connection to ASU, working with coaches and devoting time to the football program. By growing ASU football he helped us build the whole university into what it is today. He will be sorely missed.”

Coach Kush coached three other College Football Hall of Famers in Bob Breuning (1972-74), Mike Haynes (1972-75) and John Jefferson (1974-77). Three more of his players would make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame including Haynes, Curley Culp (1965-67) and Charley Taylor (1961-63).

As a whole, 38 student-athletes earned All-America honors while 128 made it to the NFL. Of those 128, 10 were first-round draft picks and 17 were Pro Bowlers.

Coach Kush’s time at ASU ended amid an investigation into a harassment claim by a former player, according to published news reports.

Despite the departure from ASU midseason, Coach Kush returned to ASU 21 years later as a special assistant to the athletics director, followed by a stint as the ambassador for Sun Devil Athletics.

Since his return to Tempe, Coach Kush has won numerous awards including an induction into the Peach Bowl Hall of Fame, the Michigan State Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lott Impact Trophy.

Off the field, he served the community in many entities and on several boards. He was the former executive director of the Arizona Boys Ranch.

After Arizona State, Coach Kush went on to be Head Coach of the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats before taking the reigns of the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts from 1982-84. He then coached the Arizona Outlaws of the United States Football League.

Preceding his coaching career, he served as a first lieutenant in the United States Army while simultaneously coaching the Fort Benning football team.

Coach Kush was born on Jan. 20, 1929 in Windber, Pa. and went on to attend Michigan State University, where he played football.

He was a two-way player and went 26-1 in his collegiate career. He earned a spot on the Look Magazine All-America team in 1952 and won a national championship in his senior season.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Kush family,” Head Football Coach Todd Graham said in a prepared statement. “It was a privilege to have known such a coaching legend and man. His legacy will always be the cornerstone of the Arizona State football program. Coach Kush I will miss you my friend.”

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