The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to review Baltimore Colt Coach Frank Kush's contention that he cannot be sued for physical and mental abuse of one of his players while he was coach at Arizona State University.
The case involves Kevin Rutledge, a defensive back and punter who was recruited by Kush to play at Arizona State in 1977.
Injured in an auto accident after the '77 season, Rutledge participated in spring and fall training in 1978 but said he was not in top physical condition and decided to sit out that season.
But after the first game of the season, according to Rutledge's lawyers, Kush told Rutledge he needed him, and Rutledge became the starting punter.
According to the suit, Kush ridiculed Rutledge at practice and called him a liar and, during an Oct. 29 game between Arizona State and Washington, punched him in the mouth following a poor punt. Arizona State lost that game, 41-7.
The ridicule and abuse continued through the following spring, the suit contended, when Rutledge finally left Arizona State, forfeiting his scholarship, and transferred to the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
Initially, Rutledge sought compensation from the Arizona board of regents for the lost scholarship, but that claim was rejected. He sued in federal court, but a district court judge threw out the case. On an appeal, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Kush and his codefendants--Arizona State Athletic Director Fred Miller and William Maskill and Gary Horton, assistant coaches under Kush--could be sued.
The defendants then took the case to the Supreme Court, which will hear the case in the fall.