Former Arizona State punter Kevin Rutledge, the opening witness in his $2.2 million damage suit against the university's former football coach, Frank Kush, and the school, testified today that Kush punched him during a 1978 game, cutting his lip.
Rutledge said he was hit after his final punt traveled only 27 yards in a 41-7 loss to Washington.
He said he returned to the sidelines after the punt and Kush approached him from the side, "grabbed my face mask and swung my head around."
Rutledge said Kush called him obscene names and, after a brief pause, "He delivered a punch." Rutledge demonstrated for the jury, showing how Kush held his face mask with his left hand and swung an uppercut with his right hand.
The punch, Rutledge said, "cut my lip, gave me a fat lip."
Rutledge said he was shocked and embarrassed by the punch although, he said, it was not unusual for Kush to slap players on the helmet.
"It occurred to my fellow players all the time," Rutledge said.
Earlier Rutledge, now enrolled at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, testified that in the summer of 1977 Kush told him no scholarships were available for Rutledge's first semester, but that he would get a 3 1/2-year scholarship.
However, Rutledge said, he later learned a scholarship had been available for his first semester.
Rutledge filed the suit in 1979, contending he was punched by Kush and harassed to the point he gave up the scholarship and left the Pacific-10 Conference school.
In opening arguments, Warren Platt, Kush's attorney, said there was no basis to the suit.
He said Rutledge was driven to filing the suit by his father Gordon, who "wanted his son to be a superstar." Although Kevin Rutledge was a good high school player, he couldn't make it in a "big-time program," the attorney said.
Platt said the defense will show Kush had not deceived Rutledge about the scholarship or other matters, and that Kush did not engage in any cover-up, because "there was nothing to cover-up."
Platt said witnesses will testify Kush did not hit Rutledge and that, because of the tight fit of Rutledge's helmet, it would have been physically impossible for Kush to have delivered the punch as alleged.
"Kevin Rutledge unfortunately was extremely disappointing to his father. Kevin Rutledge has been a pawn in this whole thing," Platt said.
Kush is now coach at Hamilton in the Canadian Football League.