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Features. Frosty's philosophy guides people to be their best, on and off the field

After 32 consecutive winning seasons, football coach Frosty Westering leaves a legacy that surpasses his records

by Nick Dawson

To some people, football Coach Frosty Westering’s legacy at PLU will be all about wins. The numbers speak for themselves:

Four national championships (1980, 1987, 1993 and 1999) in eight title game appearances.

Nineteen national postseason appearances. And 32
consecutive winning seasons at PLU.

A 305-96-7 win-loss record in 39 total seasons, including a 261-70-5 win-loss record in his 32 years at PLU. And he holds the distinction of being one of only 10 college coaches with 300 career wins.

Frosty has accumulated countless mementos in his years at PLU, and his office is a shrine to the people he has played and worked with.

To Frosty, as the affable coach is known everywhere, the championship trophies and winning seasons serve a bigger purpose. Success on the field gives him a platform from which he can pass on meaningful life lessons to those who rub up against the football program, particularly players, but also parents, cheerleaders, coaches and students. He is also a respected professor who has influenced countless non-athletes in the classroom.

A championship, in the world, gives you authenticity that you did it,” says Frosty, admitting that most people wouldn’t listen to him if his teams finished 0-9 or 1-8. “The championships just validate that you can coach. 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 not.”

It’s the trip—the journey through 39 years with thousands of different lives to touch— that drives this man. Now, following 32 winning seasons at PLU, the legendary Lute coach with two artificial hips has walked off the field. For a man who has lived his life and titled his book with his motto, “Make the Big Time Where You Are,” this will be not so much a retirement as it is a sidestep into others areas where he can influence the lives of others. He plans to finish a second book, visit his grandchildren and lend a hand to a national coaches association that wants to learn more about his philosophy.

“From a legacy standpoint it’s really not the wins and losses, although those are important,” said Paul Hoseth, who coached alongside Frosty for more than 20 years and is now athletic director and dean of the School of Physical Education. “But I don’t think that’s really too important in the big scheme of things from his perspective. It’s an attitude of how to play the game, how to coach the game, that I think will live on.

“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.”

Frosty’s son Scott, who was an All-America tight end at PLU and has been the team’s offensive coordinator since 1984, agrees with Hoseth about his dad. “He’s one of those unique guys in life that you come across that can make anybody feel good about themselves regardless of their walk in life. One thing I’ve learned is living the saying, ‘Your true character shows in how you treat people that can do nothing for you,’ and that’s how my dad has lived.”

"The real measure of me is not what I can do in comparison to others but what I can do in comparison to my own best self."

From small town to small colleges, Frosty developed his winning ways

Forrest Westering’s coaching philosophy, which is more a life philosophy, got its start in the small eastern Iowa town of Missouri Valley. Frosty, whose father owned a pharmacy and whose mother was an English teacher, spent a good portion of his childhood on football and baseball fields.

It was in Missouri Valley that the three most significant parts of his life began to gain focus.

First was his faith in God. Late in his high school years, Frosty accepted an invitation to play for a local fastpitch softball team. He was impressed by the pitcher, an outstanding athlete who played an aggressive game. Turns out the pitcher was a pastor. “I didn’t know pastors could be good athletes,” says Frosty. “I got to know him as an inspirational man of God. He was such an influence on me that I gave my life to Christ.”

Second was a commitment to family as he and grade school sweetheart Donnabelle Jones continued a courtship that eventually led to their marriage in 1951.

Finally came his love for coaching football. While still in high school, Frosty first felt the satisfaction of coaching, leading Missouri Valley grade school football teams.

After one semester at Drake University, Frosty, then 18, joined the Marine Corps, spending time in Guam and China as part of post-World War II occupation forces. He later returned stateside, where he played football for the El Toro (Calif.) Marines.

Frosty left the service to attend Northwestern University, where for two years he practiced but saw little playing time on the gridiron. When his dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, Frosty returned to Missouri Valley, at the same time transferring to the University of Omaha, 28 miles away. He played one season at the Nebraska school, earning honors as a defensive end and tight end.

“We played both ways then. One thing I learned to do was block punts. These are all phony teeth here,” Westering said with laugh while pointing to his top front teeth. “You see, in those days there were no face masks.”

Frosty finished his degree at age 25 and declared himself ready for his own program. “I was so excited. I had all these coaching ideas and I didn’t know how I was going to put them together. I knew this, all the coaches I’d had believed that football was war and winning was it. They didn’t know there was another way or they didn’t believe in another way. I had this idea that I wanted to coach like I’d like to have been coached but never was.”

Frosty immediately put his philosophy to good use, turning struggling Iowa high school football programs at Elkader and Fairfield into winners. The Fairfield job led directly to his first college head coaching position at Parsons College, located in Fairfield. He also turned that program into a winner, including an unbeaten 10-0 record in 1962, his first season. After two years he moved on to Lea College in southern Minnesota, where for five seasons his teams won nearly 60 percent of their games.

In the middle of all this, Frosty worked on his master’s and doctorate at Colorado State College, now the University of Northern Colorado. It was there that he was first exposed to a fledgling organization called Fellowship of Christian Athletes. “All of a sudden Donna and I realized, this is it, this is what can tie my faith directly into athletics,” says Frosty. “My mission is to share Christ through football without forcing it on anybody. (FCA) really solidified my mission as a coach.”

Frosty says he shares the philosophy of Amos Alonzo Stagg, one of the greatest coaches in college football history, who finished his 57-year coaching career with 314 wins, ranking him eighth on the all-time coaching victory list. Stagg had studied for a life in Christian ministry before realizing that football was his passion. The coach, after whom the NCAA Division III national championship game is named, made coaching football his ministry, serving God by leading young men to success on the gridiron and in life. “I feel exactly the same way,” Westering said.

Frosty’s enthusiasm wows coach search committee

In 1972, Frosty came to a PLU program that had enjoyed a modicum of success with three consecutive winning seasons under Roy Carlson.

The 32-year marriage between Frosty and PLU, however, almost
didn’t happen.

The committee assigned the task of finding a new coach named three finalists, all with college-level coaching experience, including the head coach of a national championship program. After interviewing each candidate, “the decision was we didn’t feel comfortable with the people that we had interviewed,” Hoseth said.

Westering wasn’t on that list. David Olson, then PLU athletic director and a former assistant football coach at Wartburg College in Iowa, remembered Frosty from his days at Parsons College. “I got to know and respect his football coaching ability and the discipline his teams showed,” Olson remembered. He called Frosty to see if he was interested in the position, and an initial meeting in the Twin Cities between the coach and then PLU financial vice president Dean Buchanan went well.

Frosty was invited for an interview. Toting a couple of briefcases loaded with films and papers documenting his years at Parsons and Lea colleges, Frosty, then 44, came for a visit.

“It was no different than it is now. He was excited,” Hoseth said. “After the weekend people thought, wow, what is this all about? He was not only enthusiastic, but he approached things a lot differently than many other coaches.”

As PLU’s assistant coaches, Hoseth and Joe Broeker got their first glimpse of the man who would soon become their boss on the field. Hoseth recalls asking Frosty during his interview about his thoughts on how to treat people and how to respond to students. That provided the first insight into the depth of Frosty’s feelings about football and what really matters in life.

Frosty and his Lutes have touched thousands of lives over the years. Airline pilots and flight attendants are appreciated with a PLU football T-shirt and an “Attaway” cheer. For nearly 30 years, the lives of Tacoma area grade and middle school students have been touched by football players who serve as mentors.

“One of the great things in this idea of a legacy, my dad’s never really stubbed his toe, blackened his eye,” Scott Westering said. “Not that he hasn’t made some bad choices and stuck his foot in his mouth, but he’s been true to who he says he is and what he values and who he is as a man and as a coach and a person.”

While such praise is common, Frosty points out with a laugh that he does not walk on water. “Well, I know where a few rocks are, so I can stand on the rocks.”

Players from across the country credit Frosty with their success on and off the field. Steve Ridgway ’76 graduated from Puyallup High School in the early 1970s. An outstanding prep football player, he chose a scholarship from the University of Colorado over Notre Dame University. After one semester, realizing that the Division I program wasn’t for him, he transferred to PLU at the suggestion of a family friend, then University of Puget Sound head coach Bob Ryan. “That recommendation by an arch-rival of PLU,” said Ridgway, “was to my benefit.”

Ridgway, an All-America linebacker in 1976, remains involved in the program as a mentor to team captains. He owes much, he says, to his college coach.

“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,” Ridgway said. “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.”

Since 1972, PLU football has been known more for the uncommon:

  • Preseason practices start with a three-day Breakaway where team-building games, skits and songs are in and where footballs and pads are left at home.

  • “Attaway” cheers for a laundry list including Mt. Rainier, alums and other PLU athletic teams.

  • When a Lute player knocks down an opponent, he is the first to offer a hand to help him up.

  • Trash talking or posing for the crowd result in a seat on the bench.

  • “Afterglow,” following all games, a gathering in the hundreds including players, coaches, parents and friends where hugs, compliments, love, laughter and tears flow in equal

  • The double-win, which emphasizes the satisfaction of playing to one’s personal potential over the final result on the scoreboard.

  • Frostyisms such as “The real measure of me is not what I can do compared to others, but what I can do compared to my best self,” “Character: Our best piece of equipment,” and “The longer we play the better we get.”

Those uncommon elements, magnified by phenomenal success on the field, have brought both local and national prominence to the coach and the program. It explains why, approximately 10 years ago, a stamped envelope addressed simply, “Frosty, Tacoma, WA,” arrived at the PLU athletic department. It also explains several articles in the large national magazine, Sports Illustrated. In its 2000 college football preview issue, SI dubbed Frosty’s program as “The Nicest Team in Football.”

Nick Dawson is PLU's former sports information director.

Next Feature: Chinese spoken here

Jason Wing '02

Frosty established a program to have players mentor students at Lister Elementary School and McIlvaigh Middle School.


Photo Credits

By: Jordan Hartman ’02 and PLU Archives


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