By Nick Dawson, Sports Information Director, Pacific Lutheran College
Frosty Westering, the iconic Pacific Lutheran University head football coach whose four national championships tell only a small part in the story of his remarkable coaching legacy, has died. He was 85 years old.
(To see a great national article about Westering, who insisted players call him Frosty, click here to go to Sports on Earth, a sports news web site affiliated with USA Today.)
Frosty had been in failing health over the last several years and had been later in hospice care through the last two months of his life. Family members were at his side as he passed.
"As we rejoice in dad's life, we say that God is good," Frosty's second son, Scott, said. "We know the end story here, that Frosty is with his Savior in heaven, and we are at peace with this."
Born on Dec. 5, 1927 in Missouri Valley, Iowa, Frosty came to Pacific Lutheran in 1972 after coaching stops at Parsons College (Iowa) and Lea College (Minnesota). After his arrival at PLU, excellence became the trademark of what Frosty called EMAL ("Every Man A Lute") football.
He was a successful coach who used his own unique methods, among them: PLU preseason practices starting with a three-day "Breakaway" where footballs and pads were left behind in favor of team-building games, skits and songs; team "Attaway" cheers for a laundry list of things including Mt. Rainier, football alums and other PLU athletic teams; "Afterglows" following all games where love, hugs, compliments, food, laughter and tears were shared in equal portions among players, family and friends; and teaching his players to offer an opponent a hand up after having knocked them to the ground.
Under Frosty's direction, Pacific Lutheran won National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division II national titles in 1980, 1987 and 1993 and finished as NAIA national runner-up in 1983, 1985, 1991 and 1994. After the school transitioned to NCAA membership in the fall of 1998, Frosty led the Lutes to the 1999 NCAA Division III championship, which it won by becoming the first-and-only team to win five straight road games.
Frosty's overall record in 32 seasons at Pacific Lutheran was a staggering 261-70-5 (.784 winning percentage), and no PLU team under his guidance suffered a losing record. He coached 26 NAIA and NCAA First Team All-Americans, and with him at the helm Pacific Lutheran appeared in 15 NAIA Division II national playoffs from 1979-97. In addition, his teams advanced to the Division III playoffs in each of the school's first four years as a NCAA member.
Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005, Frosty is one of only 11 college football coaches who have won at least 300 games. This group – a who's who of collegiate football – includes (in order of wins) John Gagliardi, Eddie Robinson, Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, Amos Alonzo Stagg Paul "Bear" Bryant, Charles "Pop" Warner, Roy Kidd, Frosty Westering, Tubby Raymond and Larry Kehres.
Frosty picked up his 300th career victory in the second game of the 2003 season - his final one at PLU - and finished his 40-year college coaching career with an incredible 305-96-7 overall record (.756 winning percentage).
He earned NAIA Division II Coach of the Year honors in 1983 and 1993 and was the NCAA Division III Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Football Gazette magazine and Shutt Sports. Frosty also received numerous conference coach of the year awards.
On Jan. 8 of this year, the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) honored him with the Amos Alonzo Stagg Award, which recognizes former and current football coaches "whose services have been outstanding in the advancement of the best interests of football."
Inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1995, Frosty is also a member of the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame, the PLU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Iowa Collegiate Coaching Hall of Fame, and the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.
Frosty was honored with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lifetime Achievement Award, the Athletes for a Better World Lifetime Achievement Award, and twice was named the Tacoma News Tribune Man of the Year in Sports.
The excellence Frosty's teams achieved on the field, however, was only a by-product of his overall life philosophy. He valued the development of his players and students - he was a professor with a doctorate in education from the University of Northern Colorado - as more important than wins and trophies. Those things, he believed, gave him a platform from which he could pass on meaningful life lessons.
In an article that appeared in a 2003 edition PLU's publication, Scene, Frosty said, "A championship, in the world, give you authenticity that you did it. But that really doesn't say anything until you ask, 'What was the trip like?' The trip was the greatest thing in life whether we won or lost."
To say that Frosty impacted the lives of thousands of individuals – players, parents, students, school administrators, opposing coaches and players – would not be an understatement.
Paul Hoseth, who coached alongside Frosty at PLU for more than 20 years and is a former athletic director at the school, said the following in that Scene article: "The impact that he has had on students who both played and didn't play football here has been amazing, and not only at this institution but many others. I just can't imagine people not being impacted in some way."
To his players, he emphasized a double-win theme: victory on the scoreboard and the satisfaction of playing to one's personal potential. A football letter-winner at both Northwestern and Nebraska-Omaha and a Marine drill instructor, Frosty wrote two books that dealt with his life philosophy, Make The Big Time Where You Are and The Strange Secret of the Big Time: What Makes Life Great.
"Frosty Westering showed me how to play the game the right way, what athletics really was all about: That it was bigger than just stepping on the field, making tackles, interceptions, winning games," former PLU All-America linebacker Steve Ridgway said in the Scene article. "In the time that I was at PLU, Frosty gave me a faith to build my life on, he gave me a hope for the future, and a sense that love never fails."
In a mentorship program started decades ago by Frosty, Pacific Lutheran football players continue to portray excellence in the classroom and in the community where they serve as role models for hundreds of youth in the Tacoma area through their personal involvement at several public schools. The players annually donate approximately 2,000 hours at the schools.
Frosty specialized in sports motivation and sports psychology and was in high demand as a speaker at regional and national gatherings. He was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and is survived and his wife, Donna, five children and 13 grandchildren.
What Others Say About Frosty Westering:
- "I run into people all over America that love Frosty because of what he taught them, and what they learned from him, and how they've applied that to their own life."
- "He is a real example of what a coach wants to be and how a coach wants to end up, revered and loved by those that he's taught for his whole career."
Grant Teaff, American Football Coaches Association Executive Director and former football head coach at McMurry University, Angelo State University, and Baylor University:
- "The epitome of a college football coach, of a loving Christian husband and father, to me is Frosty Westering."
- "I've known a lot of coaches in my time, and as I look back I don't know that I've ever met a coach or heard of a coach or watched a coach that I felt was more Christ-like in the way he conducted his life and the way that he did things and the way he coached. He's my hero."
- "Coaching is really the impact that you make on other people's lives, and to see changes in their lives is really the ultimate success in coaching. And of course, Frosty and Donna have had such an impact on so, so many young people's lives and so many marriages across the country."
Fisher DeBerry, head football coach at the United States Air Force Academy from 1984 to 2006: