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Frank Kush dies; former Arizona State football coach was 88

Penn State's Joe Paterno, left, and Arizona State's

Penn State's Joe Paterno, left, and Arizona State's Frank Kush, address reporters at a Fiesta Bowl event in Phoenix in December 1977. Kush coached Arizona State into a football powerhouse from 1958 to 1979. Photo Credit: AP / Lennox McLendon

TEMPE, Ariz. — Frank Kush, the fearsome coach who transformed Arizona State from a backwater football program into a powerhouse, has died. He was 88.

Arizona State confirmed the death on Thursday.

“Coach Kush built ASU into a national football power,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said in a 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.”

Kush compiled a 176-54-1 record while coaching the Sun Devils from 1958 to 1979. His teams won two Border Conference and seven Western Athletic Conference titles.

Arizona State won the Peach Bowl in 1970 and the first three Fiesta Bowls. His 1975 team went 12-0, capped by a 17-14 Fiesta Bowl victory over Nebraska.

Kush’s intense style figured prominently in his firing in October 1979 for what the university said was his interference in an internal investigation of allegations by a former player of physical and mental harassment against the coach.

He was head coach of the NFL’s Colts for two years in Baltimore and one in Indianapolis from 1982 to 1984, compiling an 11-28-1 record. Kush also spent one season as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.

After a period of estrangement, Arizona State welcomed Kush back in 1996, holding a “Frank Kush Day” and naming the playing field at Sun Devil Stadium “Frank Kush Field.”

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Kush family,” current ASU coach Todd Graham said on Twitter. “It was a privilege to have known such a true coaching legend and man! His legacy will always be the cornerstone of the ASU Football Program! Coach Kush, I miss you my friend.”

He was hired as an assistant to the athletic director in 2000, helping with fundraising efforts.

Kush was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995.

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