Frank KushJanuary means "bowl season," and for ASU's former head coach, the Sun Devils are always top of mind.
By Kelly Kramer
Frank Kush was a maker of men. For more than 20 years, he roamed the sidelines at Sun Devil Stadium, leading the Sun Devils of Arizona State University to a record 176 wins — including two conference titles — and only 54 losses.
Although the latter part of Kush's tenure at ASU was marked by some controversy, his imprint on the school's football program remains. Kush — now the Sun Devils' director for football development — is the man behind the team's modern-day training camp, Camp Tontozona, as well as the man for whom the stadium's playing field is named.
According to the coach himself, much of his success is due to the camaraderie his teams developed during the time they spent at Camp Tontozona, the university-owned property near Payson where the team spends the latter part of each summer.
"Our first year at Camp T was in 1959," Kush remembers. "Tanner Brothers was building a road from Payson to Kohl's Ranch, and I asked them if they could clear space for a football field. They did. And the coaches and I planted all the grass seed for that field."
Although it took some convincing to get the university, the Board of Regents and the NCAA to approve Camp T as the Devils' summer home, Kush made it happen. And he did it because the place reminded him of Pennsylvania, his childhood home.
"When I played football, my high school purchased the Pittsburgh Steelers' camp because it had been flooded out," he says. "They bought it and straightened it up. I was just in pig heaven when we went there." Why? Having come from a family with 15 children, Kush was delighted to have a bed of his own and three square meals a day. "We had water beds long before anyone had water beds," he adds.
Today, Kush spends much of his time raising money for ASU's football program, but he rarely misses any home games, particularly this season, as the team celebrated its 30th year in the PAC-10.
"Initially, I was opposed to ASU leaving the Western Athletic Conference and moving over to the PAC-10," Kush says. "But then I learned from Coach Dan Devine that we could recruit some of the players that the California schools didn't take. We really wanted great players, so we moved them over from California. The program has really come a long way since then."
Indeed it has. But that's not to say that Kush has forgotten the good old days.
"I still remember the first game I coached in Sun Devil Stadium," he says. "We played West Texas and we beat them. We went in there and just gave them the finger."