By Derek Johnson
I saw a report today that current ASU players carried 86-year old Frank Kush off the field on their shoulders. It was at Camp Tontozona, the mountain retreat Kush began taking Sun Devil teams to in 1959.
When I was growing up, USC was the team I wanted Washington to beat the most. But the team I hated the most, hands down, was Arizona State.
In 1978, I was seven, when ASU made its first ever trip to Seattle. The Sun Devils were ranked and powerful. Back in those days, dad and I sat near in the tunnel, so we could feel the intensity of both teams as they ran onto the field.
Washington won that day 41-7. I remember seeing commotion on the ASU sideline, only to find out later that Frank Kush had punched his punter after the player shanked one out of bounds.
A year later, Kush coached his final college game ironically against Washington. He was forced out in mid-season.
On that October night in 1979, the Huskies were 5-0 and ranked #6 in the nation. They traveled to Tempe, and upon arriving the news had broke that Kush was fired and that night's game would be his last.
That night proved intense. As Don James told me years later, "As soon as we stepped off the team bus, we could see we had extra factors against us."
ASU prevailed 12-7, and players carried Kush off the field. The most painful moment for me was seeing the Huskies backed up against their own goal line. A hand off went to the great Joe Steele, and he got hit and fumbled. The Sun Devils recovered in the end zone.
That was the only game after which I ever cried. I felt like so much was lost.
In the decade that followed, the two teams traded blows.
In 1981, ASU came to Husky Stadium and won 26-7 on my birthday. I had gotten to know Chuck Nelson the previous summer from a Husky Football Camp. He wrote me a letter the week after that ASU game apologizing for losing on my birthday. Kind of funny to think back on now.
In 1982, the Huskies had been ranked #1 in the nation for seven weeks before losing to John Elway and Stanford. After a big win over UCLA, the Huskies (8-1) traveled to Tempe where the #3 Sun Devils were trying to clinch a trip to Pasadena. In fact, ASU passed out roses to fans before the game. But the Huskies won that game 17-13. Aaron Williams (father of Kasen), made an incredible one-handed diving catch for a touchdown.
It wasn't on TV , but dad and listened intently on the radio in his den. My hands were sweating like crazy, and I can still smell dad's tobacco pipe smoke.
The Sun Devils crushed UW in '85 and '86, which knocked the Huskies from prominence and poured gasoline onto my anti-ASU rage. But the Huskies won again in '87, and back-and-forth it went for another decade.
Of course, after Mark Emmert arrived in 2003 as UW president, with his baby soft hands and scarf collection, he hired Tyrone Willingham and kept him long enough to burn Husky football to the ground. Then Emmert was suckered into hiring Steve Sarkisian, and we had to endure five years of that charlatan.
So here we sit in 2015. ASU has just carried Frank Kush off the field in celebration of their past. They've also beaten Washington something like 10 times in a row. And the funny thing now is that it doesn't really hurt much anymore. When we lost last year in the typhoon at Husky Stadium, I shook my head and was over it within a couple hours.
In fact, during a recent trip to the Valley of the Sun, I saw an ASU shirt for sale at a store. I took a pic and texted it to my dad. "Hmmmmm, should I buy this?"
He responded: "I think you should give Coach Petersen one more year before you switch teams."