Todd Clapper Recognized as 2020-21 Frank Kush Award Winner
After a year of uncertainty, some fanless venues, COVID testing daily and some outstanding efforts by staff and student-athletes, the head coaches at Arizona State came together to name the third recipient of the Frank Kush Award, as water polo's Todd Clapper has earned the honor, announced annually on the anniversary of Coach Kush's passing (June 22, 2017).
There is one vote per head coach -- 21 total -- and the peer-only vote is the ultimate sign of respect from colleagues, and many factors can go into the final decision. It could be a successful first-year coach, a coach that had a season for the ages, or anything in between. The vote is what each head coach decides is most important in earning the honor, and 2020-21 produced a variety of opinions, as nine coaches earned at least one vote.
Clapper follows in the footsteps of hockey's Greg Powers (2018-19) and Trisha Ford (2017-18).
"It is an honor to receive this award named after a Sun Devil legend," said Clapper. "It is also an incredible honor because it is voted on by my peers. This means a lot to our program."
What a season.
Three top five upsets, the Program's first NCAA Tournament Placing, All-Americans, and 14 straight weeks of top five rankings ??
It could not have been done without this amazing coaching staff Todd, Petra, and Stefanos, as well as our athletic trainer Maggie! pic.twitter.com/5TEPM7PU3l
— Sun Devil Water Polo (@SunDevilWP) June 8, 2021
Sun Devil water polo had one of its best seasons in program history.
Not only were three top-five upsets for the first time since 2001, it was the first time since 2016 that there had been a top-five upset.
The Sun Devils had exceptional conference play among a stacked group of the league's elite teams, and tied the program's highest placing in the MPSF Tournament with a fourth-place finish.
So proud of @SunDevilWP for their 3rd place finish!! Another historic season for one of our teams! Congratulations @clapperpolo, @ppetra1, Stefanos, & student-athletes! #GoDevils https://t.co/hc7vbo1f9i
— Ray Anderson (@SunDevilRay23) May 16, 2021
Coach Clapper made winning the norm, as ASU ended the season with 14 straight weeks of placing in the top five of the Collegiate Water Polo Association Polls. His defensive strategy held the NCAA Champion USC Trojans to some of their lowest scoring games of the season and proved that the Sun Devils were ready to play with the best of the best. The Sun Devils beat Michigan for their first NCAA Tournament win in program history, and advanced to the Final Four tying for third in the NCAA Tournament -- another program milestone.
And that's on getting it done in and out of the pool????
Thank you to our great academic coaches with OSAD helping us stay ?? in the classrooms?? pic.twitter.com/ypk4Xl1cro
— Sun Devil Water Polo (@SunDevilWP) May 29, 2021
Clapper is set to enter his 17th season as a Sun Devil, and there is no doubt that this past season is one of the most impressive of his career. Clapper coached four All-Americans, and Bente Rogge will be off to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this Summer.
ABOUT FRANK KUSH
Frank Kush led the Sun Devils to six victories in seven bowl games, including the 1970 Peach Bowl and 1975 Fiesta Bowl where the team capped off two undefeated seasons. The Peach Bowl marked ASU's first bowl game in 19 years and the Fiesta Bowl win pushed the Sun Devils to second in the national rankings, the highest ever under Kush. With Kush's 1975 team finishing second in the national rankings, he was named the National Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association and the Walter Camp Foundation. Aside from producing winning teams, Kush coached nearly 40 All-Americans and more than 125 NFL players, including 10 first-round draft picks and 17 Pro Bowlers.
An Arizona State and College Football Hall of Fame inductee and the winningest coach in Sun Devil Football history, Coach Kush passed away on June 22, 2017, at 88. He started his career at ASU in 1955 as an assistant under former head coach Dan Devine. Three seasons later, on Dec. 22, 1957, Kush became the 15th football coach in Arizona State history and the rest is ASU, Phoenix, college football, Tempe and state of Arizona history. He went on to win 176 games, the most in school history, across 21+ seasons and was elected into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He led his team to seven Western Athletic Conference Championships and guided the Sun Devils to winning seasons in 19 of his 22 years.