Frosty Westering, the former longtime successful football coach at Pacific Lutheran, died Friday at the age of 85.
Forrest “Frosty” Westering’s mantra was to “Make the Big Time Where You Are.”
He also, though, never forgot who he was. And those who knew him best said that was the key to success for the legendary football coach at Pacific Lutheran University. Westering died Friday of congestive heart failure at the age of 85.
Westering was 262-70-5 in 32 years at PLU, from 1972-2003, and never had a losing record. He led the Lutes to NAIA Division II national titles in 1980, 1987 and 1993. He won another national title in 1999 after the Lutes moved to NCAA Division III.
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And including stints at Parsons College in Iowa and Lea College in Minnesota, Westering had a career record of 305-96-7, finishing as one of only 11 college football coaches who have won at least 300 games (the others are John Gagliardi, Eddie Robinson, Joe Paterno, Bobby Bowden, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Paul “Bear” Bryant, Charles “Pop” Warner, Roy Kidd, Tubby Raymond and Larry Kehres).
It was how he won those games, though, that resonated most.
He’d lead his players in team-wide “attaway” cheers for a multitude of jobs well done. And each year, when the time began that schools could officially start practice, he instead took his players off-campus for three days for what he called a “breakaway” period. Instead of running through football drills, they participated in a variety of team-building games.
“What do you mean, we are not going to practice for three days and other teams are?” recalled Steve Ridgway, who played at PLU from 1973 to 1976. “We’re going to do stupid songs and goofy games and end with a player-run church service? What?
“But I’ll tell you what, the biggest skeptics were the first to fall because it just grabbed you. They saw the generosity of it, the beauty of it, the fun. It was about honoring people, but also helping them to understand that you are not the center of the universe.”
And if some of it might have seemed a little corny to outsiders, it always worked for those on the inside.
“He was able to do this because it’s who he was,” Ridgway said. “He wasn’t pretentious or boisterous. It’s just who he was.”
Westering was born Dec. 5, 1927 in Missouri Valley, Iowa. He later was a drill instructor in the Marines and played football at Northwestern University of Iowa and Nebraska-Omaha, before entering coaching, first at two high schools, then the college ranks.
He came to PLU in 1972, legend having it that he got the job in part because he had a better sense of humor than the others who had interviewed.
“He didn’t take himself too seriously,” said Craig Kupp, a PLU quarterback from 1986 to 1989. “He just approached life that way, and he was not scared to try unconventional things.”
Once at PLU, he created his “Every Man A Lute” philosophy of teamwork and selflessness. He quickly began winning games.
“He was a football genius,” said Ridgway. “You can bring the spirit of what he brought, but if you are not a good technician of the game then you are not going to win games, and he was able to take guys who weren’t necessarily highly regarded at other programs and build a team. But he knew it started first with attitude and spirit and camaraderie.”
Kupp recalls that in his final year Westering installed what he called the “Cracker Jack” offense.
“We had everybody spread out, five receivers on one side,” Kupp said. “He just wasn’t scared to do anything.”
Westering also wrote two books, including “Make the Big Time Where You Are,” and after retirement stayed close to the program with his son, Scott Westering, taking over as coach. He also received numerous honors, including being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
The school reported Westering had been in failing health the past several years and had been in hospice care the past two months.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Frosty Westering, year by year
The career head-coaching record of Frosty Westering, who died Friday at the age of 85:
Albert Lea/6 years/27-22-2