Coaching the Sun Devils until the middle of the 1979 season, Kush had 19 winning teams. He was named national coach of the year in 1975, when Arizona State went 12-0 and gained the No. 2 national ranking. He took the Sun Devils to six bowl victories, sent dozens of players to the pros and won seven Western Athletic Conference championships. He won 176 games, lost 54 and had one tie.
Kush was once a celebrity in Arizona. His face was plastered on billboards around the state, his program was backed by a powerful booster organization, and he was hailed by state legislators and the university administration.
Famously demanding, he was known for putting his Arizona State players through grueling training camps in the August heat and requiring those who committed mental lapses to run up and down a steep, treeless 500-foot slope of loose sand and shale that became known as Mount Kush.
One player who incurred Kush’s wrath fought back. Kevin Rutledge, a former Sun Devil punter, filed a lawsuit in September 1979 seeking damages against Kush and others associated with the football program.
Rutledge said that when he reached the sideline after making a poor kick in a game against Washington in October 1978, Kush shook his helmet from side to side, reached under his face mask and punched him in the mouth.
He also contended that Kush and an assistant conspired to harass him, physically as well as verbally, in an effort to get him to quit the team and vacate his scholarship. He did quit in 1979, transferring to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Kush denied the player’s allegations, and the university’s Board of Regents found that he had done nothing wrong. But he was fired in October 1979, with his…