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Legends recall early times in Sun Devil Stadium


November 06, 2008

In 50 years of Sun Devil football, the most familiar name may be that of Frank Kush, the legendary ASU head coach who in 22 years at the helm of the program had 19 winning seasons. His teams won nine conference championships and ran up a 6-1 bowl record.
Kush and his toughness were synonymous with the program, and the field at Sun Devil Stadium is named after him.

He will appear at this year’s Homecoming Football Luncheon Nov. 14, along with celebrated former players Danny White and Ron Pritchard, and other great athletes from the reunion classes. The “Legends” luncheon will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Carson Ballroom of Old Main on ASU’s Tempe campus.

White was a quarterback for ASU from 1971 to 1973 before having a storied career with the Dallas Cowboys. Pritchard was an All-American linebacker for ASU in the late 1960s, spending nine years in the NFL before a career-ending knee injury.

Kush is one of the few individuals whose career at ASU dates back to 50 years ago, when a ballot initiative succeeded in getting the name changed from Arizona State College to Arizona State University. He was hired in 1955 as an assistant coach by Dan Devine, succeeding Devine as head coach three years later.

He remembers the struggle to gather support for a yes vote on Proposition 200.

“I was a young man, just 29, when I became head coach in 1958,” Kush says. “ASU was a small place, with about 6,000 students. I traveled around the state with (ASU president) Dr. Gammage and (alumni executive director) Jimmy Creasman and the deans, speaking at different luncheons to gather support for Proposition 200. I was really impressed with the amount of community support for ASU, during the campaign for the name change.

“The intriguing thing is that right behind us on the luncheon circuit were the president of the University of Arizona and his deans, telling people there should be only one university in the state of Arizona. I remember him holding up one finger and saying, ‘Only one.’

“We opened up Sun Devil Stadium right before the election, and somebody had burned on the field in big block letters, ‘No 200.’

“This shocked me, because I was a student at Michigan State a few years earlier when it became a university, and there was no political animosity at all. All this negative aspect was a surprise. The UA was the university in the state of Arizona, as far as they were concerned.”

White’s strongest memories from the 1970s are of training at Camp Tontozona – and of Kush’s tough regimen that made Saturday night games seem like a breeze.

“If you could make it through practice, the games were easy,” White says. “We practiced every day in full pads. Kush ran the show, and everybody knew it. But, in his tyranny, he bonded us together – us against him. It was part of his method, and it worked.

“Camp Tontozona was special, all of us crammed into a big room, taking cold showers, doing nothing but eat, sleep and play football. It almost pushed you to the edge. But it also brought out the little kid in you, like going to summer camp.”

White says the Sun Devils have the ability to beat Washington State Nov. 15, but he’s not making any predictions.

“This year in college football, anything can happen,” he says. “The football gods have taken over.”

Tickets to the luncheon are $40 for Alumni Association members and $45 for non-members. To register, visit the Web site www.asu.edu/alumni/homecomingluncheon.