I remember like it was yesterday. It was a Friday, just a few weeks into another school year at Arizona State. I woke up around 10, threw on my school uniform which consisted of a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, hat and dark sunglasses and headed to the MU to grab some grub before class.
The campus was abuzz as the football team was hosting the two-time defending National Champion Nebraska Cornhuskers and with typical aloof, even the most die-hard fans knew that we had no chance on the gridiron come Saturday.
The Devils were blown out in Lincoln the year before to the tune of 77 points and the Huskers’ most recent national championship came here in Tempe against a previously undefeated Florida Gators team.
The Huskers had won 37 straight regular season games coming into the matchup, but the Arizona State administration had the equalizer. On September 21, 1996, on the morning of the big game, the field was named in honor of Frank Kush the legendary Sun Devil coach.
On Frank Kush Night, a statue was unveiled of the field general with 200 of his ex-players in attendance. Over 74,000 Sun Devil faithful were in attendance for the upset of the decade.
The Devils shut-out the Huskers for the first time in 23 years and did it on offense and defense with a record three safeties.
The House of Heat earned its name that night not only due to its 91-degree weather at kickoff but also by how Jake Plummer, Derrick Rodgers and Keith Poole torched the team that hadn’t lost a game in over two seasons.
With all the discussion about the new stadium renovation, it’s the field that deserves all the glory.
Frank Kush Field and it’s natural surface of hybrid Bermuda grass is truly hallowed ground and the tradition of that began on that hot September evening will carry on through this renovation and many more to come.
The stadium and field has seen it all, from the shocking upset in 1996 to the largest seated crowd in 1999, when 80,470 fans saw the University of Tennessee defeat Florida State University 23-16 in the stadium’s first of two NCAA National Championships. It was also home to Super Bowl XXX in 1996 and played emergency home for the San Diego Chargers in 2003 when the Chargers hosted the Miami Dolphins for Monday Night Football.
Hollywood, the Vatican and the leader of the free world have also made their stops to Tempe to visit the legendary Frank Kush field and while the Pope and the President’s visits were cool, I think Cuba Gooding, Jr. said it best in Jerry Maguire.
“I went to Arizona State, I’m a Sun Devil, man!”