Sports Connections Frank Kush

Frank Kush's football foundation was built in the Keystone State, but his gridiron fame and fortune was nurtured in the Great Lakes and Grand Canyon states.

Kush, the son of a Polish immigrant coal miner, grew up in Windber in the 1940s – one of 15 youngsters in the household. He participated in a number of sports – including baseball and basketball – but excelled in football, where he played left guard and tackle for three years for the Ramblers.

At 17, the hard-working Kush expressed a desire to go to college and to teach mathematics and coach football. In a newspaper article from 1947, he said: "I don't know what I'll do if I don't get a scholarship. I'll probably go to work somewhere."

In his recently released autobiography titled, "Frank Kush: The Incredible Life Story of a Coaching Legend in His Own Words," Kush talked about his upbringing in Windber.

"To say that we were poor would be like saying it is hot in Arizona in the summertime," he wrote.

Kush earned a scholarship to Michigan State, where he became an All-American guard for the Spartans in 1952. He was a member of two Michigan State national championship teams, including the undefeated 1952 squad.

In his book, Kush said: "Although I was going to school for an undergraduate degree, at Michigan State, I received a master's degree in the game of football."

After college, he rose to the rank of first lieutenant in the U.S. Army before landing at Arizona State as an assistant coach under former Michigan State assistant Dan Devine.

When Devine went to Missouri to take over as head coach, Kush, at age 28 was hired as Arizona State's head coach. He led the Sun Devils to 19 winning seasons, nine conference titles and seven bowl-game appearances.

He coached two undefeated teams – in 1970 and 1975 – and led the Sun Devils to a 16-5 mark against in-state rival Arizona.

Kush was fired in 1979, in the wake of a lawsuit filed by Arizona State punter Kevin Rutledge, who alleged his coach punched him in the face during a game the year before. 

The former Windber Rambler went on to coach the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1981, the NFL’s Baltimore Colts from 1982 through 1984, and United States Football League Arizona Outlaws in 1985. Kush was with the Colts when they made the infamous late-night run – moving to Indianapolis in March 1984.

Kush was inducted into the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame in 1967 and into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1975.

In his book, Kush, now 87, summed up his colorful life: "From a poor coal miner's son in central Pennsylvania to a degree from a prominent university, to distinguished military service and a Hall of Fame coaching career, I feel that I've lived the American dream.

Cory Isenberg is a sports reporter and columnist for The Tribune-Democrat. She can be reached at (814) 532-5080.​ Follow her on Twitter @CoryIsenbergTD.

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