Gary Doran

Frank Kush By the Numbers

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On Thursday the Arizona State football program lost its iconic leader. The man who helped propel a teacher’s college on the national map by consistently winning is gone. In his 22 years at the helm in Tempe Frank Kush compiled at regular season record of 170-53-1, a 76.2 winning percentage against 38 different opponents, in three different conferences. Additionally, he was 6-1 in bowl games. Simply put, the man knew how to win college football games.

The ASU Devils Den analyzed Kush’s win-loss record and found some interesting aspects to his coaching accomplishments. A very big one is that in 224 regular season games he coached, his teams lost more than two games in a row, in a season only three times; 1966, 1974 and 1976. He not only knew how to win, but more importantly, he understood what to do to stop losing. Winning is important, and it’s easier to win games when a team is already winning, however, it’s tougher to win when things aren’t going well. Frank Kush seemed to do the things necessary to halt losing before it became accepted. He had a will to win, and so did his teams. For Frank Kush, losing was not an option.

As each month of the season passed, Kush’s teams averaged scoring more points per game, and allowing fewer points per game. His teams won over 80-percent of their games in the last month of the regular season. They also won six out of seven bowl games. The football seasonal cycle may be long and tiring, but it appears that his teams didn’t buy into that belief.

Another telling aspect to Kush’s teams was that they not only won, they dominated their opponents. In looking at the average points scored per game, his ASU teams averaged almost double the score of their opponents. It would appear that when he had an opponent down, his teams didn’t let up.

Kush’s ASU teams shut out opponents four times as often as they were shut out. Additionally, they scored more than 30 points per game five times as often as they allowed it. Again, it shows that overall, his teams dominated their opponents. They not only won, they won BIG!

In his first 120 regular season games coaching ASU, Frank Kush’s teams were only shut out once. His teams only allowed an opponent to score more than 30 points in a game seven times in his first 120 regular season games. Another way to look at that stat is that in the 1950’s and 60’s, Kush’s ASU teams held opponents under 30 points almost 95-percent of the time.

The biggest takeaway from looking at Kush’s record at home, and on the road, is that his teams won almost as often on the road as they did at home. His ASU teams won more than 70-percent of their games playing in their opponents’ stadiums. Additionally, his Sun Devils averaged scoring just two percent fewer points on the road than at home.

ASU played a total of 18 teams that compiled an overall losing record against other opponents during the years ASU played those teams. ASU was 104-27 against those teams, with over a 79-percent winning percentage. Kush’s Devils played against 17 teams that had overall winning records against other opponents during the years they played the Devils, and ASU had a 60-26 record against those teams, roughly a 70-percent winning percentage. (Three teams weren’t considered in this analysis, where ASU was 6-0 against them.) The interesting point here is that there wasn’t a large winning record difference for ASU between those teams with overall winning record and those with overall losing records.

As with most records, there are outliers that help or hurt the overall results, and Kush’s was no different. His record was enhanced by some of the opponents the Devils played, as ASU was a combined 59-5 against four teams; New Mexico, UTEP, Colorado State and BYU. Additionally, in the year ASU played a team, if that team had a winning record for the season, Kush’s teams won 54-percent of those games, whereas if the team had a losing record that season, ASU won a whopping 92-percent of the games. That is quite a difference, but clearly, inferior teams were not taken lightly by Kush or his teams.  He beat the teams he was supposed to.

Finally, there was Kush’s record against the Arizona Wildcats. His teams were 16-5, a 76-percent winning percentage against the team from Tucson. Kush’s teams were 7-4 against the Wildcats in Tucson, and a dominating 9-1 in Tempe. During the first seven years of the rivalry, Kush’s teams were only 3-4 against Wildcats, but from 1965 to 1978, his teams went 13-1 against the team from down south.  Clearly he owned the rivalry in that 14 year span.

ASU has two iconic figures that symbolize the football program for its fans; Pat Tillman for courage, honor and sacrifice, and Frank Kush for determination, loyalty and a will to win. Kush put the ASU football program on the map by winning, but he also endeared fans to him by his life-long loyalty to the football program he built, and to its fan base. That type of winning and loyalty may never be repeated in Tempe, but for this writer, it was a magical time being a fan when he coached the Devils. Because of him, some 40 years later, I love crunching numbers related to the football program he built.  Thank you Frank Kush!

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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