Roger Harring

UWL community remembers remarkable coach, teacher, friend

Roger Harring’s true impact is best reflected in the lives he touched. He was a remarkable coach, teacher and friend.

Posted noon Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2000

Roger Harring, ’58 & ’62, accomplished a lot in his 31 years as UWL’s head football coach: 261 victories, 15 conference titles, three national championships. 

But the true measure of his impact is best reflected in the number of lives he touched — the countless people he helped or inspired throughout his outstanding career. 

To celebrate this legacy, colleagues, friends, former students and athletes shared their favorite stories and lasting impressions of Roger Harring. Together, they reveal how the man known simply as “Coach” was in reality so much more. 

Harring and his trademark bike on campus.

Roger Jaeger, ’76 & ’78 

Offensive line coach 

I was a young coach working with the offensive linemen. We had a player that made the same mistake more than once. In a staff meeting, Coach Harring asked me why he continued making that mistake. My response was, “I don't know. I have told him many times how he needed to do the job.” Coach Harring's response was, "You told him?" I said, “Yes, sir.” Coach said, "Your job is not to tell him what to do. Your job is to teach him what to do.” I became a better coach that day. I learned that when a player, child or employee makes a mistake, I need to search for another way to teach what I want to have done. I have never forgotten that lesson.



Mick Miyamoto, ’79 

Mick Miyamoto, ’79 

Offensive lineman 

Roger embodied the expression, “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The players knew that Roger cared deeply about them well beyond what talents they brought to the team. I, too, went on and coached football for 28 years (mostly at the DIII level), and the lessons I learned from Roger and his staff that I tried to incorporate into my craft had nothing to do with X’s and O’s and everything to do with building relationships. I would often tell people, “I’m not coaching football, but rather young men through football.” That, I learned in a profound way from Roger. 

There’s an old quote that says, “A good coach can change the outcome of a game. A great coach can change the outcome of lives.” Roger did just that by always understanding that he was first and foremost an educator. We often associate football coaches with four-letter words. The only one that comes to mind when I think of Coach Harring is “love.” 

 

Mary Sullivan 

Secretary/assistant 

I worked as Coach’s secretary/assistant for my work-study job for two years. Coach was a graduate of an all-boys high school in Green Bay, and I was a graduate of an all-girls high school in Green Bay, St. Joseph Academy. He introduced me to anybody that came into the office as his “Academy girl.” Unless you were from Green Bay, you had no idea what he was talking about. He was always curious about my brother, who was a football player he tried to recruit to come to La Crosse. I ran into Coach 10 years after I left La Crosse, and he still called me his “Academy girl” and wanted to know what was up with my brother. It was wonderful to have a Green Bay connection when I was far from home. I loved Coach! 

 

Tony Jennison, ’98 

Defensive back 

Coach Harring was the first person in my life who encouraged me (all of us on the team) to tell our parents we love them. It was a common thing he said at the end of practice … to remember to tell your parents you love them. Something small, but it gets to the essence of who he was as a man. Football wasn't the most important part of his life. It was important, and hard work was expected. But he taught us to have the proper priorities. 



James Parker, Professor emeritus 

James Parker 

Professor emeritus 

What not nearly enough people know about Roger is that, from the time he arrived at UWL, he was committed to diversity and acceptance. 

When UWL created the third Pre-College Program in the nation in 1974, we did so on a shoestring budget. I asked Roger if he would be interested in providing recreational opportunities for the 25 incoming first-year students, who were students of color and white kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. I told him it was a seven-day-a-week, six-week commitment for very low pay. Roger did not hesitate to join us and was there for weekend events as well. 

In 1975 and 1976, when we were building relationships with Historically Black Colleges North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T, he quickly agreed to participate and embarked on a weeklong exchange program for UWL. He successfully recruited African American grad students who then enrolled in UWL’s master's programs. His devotion to diversifying his student-athletes in football has been attested to repeatedly and with emotion. 

Roger worked with many other pioneering programs we developed through the years. He was a stalwart leader in creating a vibrant and vital set of programs for students of color and all students, and his role should never be forgotten or underestimated. He was a delight and will be sorely missed by all whose lives he affected.



Caroline Norelius, Former director of alumni relations 

Caroline Norelius 

Former director of alumni relations 

Having worked the chain gang on both sides of the field, I will always remember the stark differences in what went on during the games. We didn’t often lose, but there were a number of close games. The other team’s coaching staff seemed to deteriorate as the game went along, less than positive to their players, officials and staff. I will always remember how Roger kept the team and coaches focused on positive actions, language and outcomes during the games. 

Roger had a partner in this football gig from the beginning of his coaching career in high school. His wife, Mary, was the person that supported him and kept him grounded. My favorite story took place during a postseason Saturday. Roger was leaving home to go to coach’s meetings. As he headed out the door, Mary said, “Roger, don’t forget to take out the trash.” 

He responded, “Mary, I’m trying to win a national championship!” Her response, “Take out the trash, Roger.”

He did.



Roger Masarik, ’93 & ’06  

Roger Masarik, ’93 & ’06  

My favorite memory of Roger was seeing him bike around campus during my four-plus years there. He would always wave to students even if he didn’t know you. He made you feel like you were part of the campus family.


Steven King, ’77 & ’92 

Defensive back, current defensive line coach 

Coach Harring was always a very positive coach who demanded and received the best from his athletes. We looked up to him and played not only for ourselves, but for UWL and the community. 

Coach was very influential in not only my professional life, but also in my personal life. His influence helped make me into the person that I am today. One quote that I remember from Coach was, "If you love what you do, you'll never work a day in your life."


John Stanek, ’75 

John Stanek, ’75 

Linebacker 

I started as linebacker for Coach Harring from 1972 to 1975. In 2001, I was inducted into the UWL Hall of Fame, and in 2011, I was named to the WIAC All-Time Centennial Football team. I hold the WIAC for career tackles at 482. None of those accomplishments would have been possible if Coach Harring hadn’t seen potential in a local recruit from Aquinas High School. 

I graduated in business and stayed in the La Crosse area and ran Stanek Electric, our family business. Roger and I never lost touch, and he always had a story to tell about my playing days. Although, as I always said, Roger never forgot any of his players, and you didn’t need to be a starter. 

He was a great coach, a great mentor and a great friend.



Dave Borchardt, ’80 (#60)

Dave Borchardt, ’80 

Offensive lineman 

Approximately halfway through the 1978 season, Coach Harring did something I've never forgotten. We had a team meeting Monday to review film of the previous game — only, instead of game film, Coach played a short film about a physically and mentally challenged young man. He lived with his mother on a farm and rode their small tractor into town each day to sell pencils and do what he could to help support them. When his mother passed, the man continued to ride in each day and do what he could to support himself. When the film ended, Coach Harring said with emotion cracking in his voice, "I dare you to use your abilities to the same extent as this man — I dare you!" and walked out of the room.  

That offseason, I trained harder, ate more healthy foods and came back the following fall 20 pounds heavier and in the best shape of my life. My senior year, I went on to receive First-Team All-Conference, First-Team All-District and Honorable Mention All-American honors, in addition to team recognition. With Coach Harring, it wasn't about X's and O's. It was about character and doing the best you could with the gifts and abilities you were given.



Darrell Broten, ’73 

Darrell Broten, ’73 

Tight end 

My favorite memory of Coach Harring is when he let me suit up for our homecoming game in 1970. I had been on the freshman football team and joined varsity as a sophomore but was not good enough to play at all. I was relegated to scrimmage duty, which I took very seriously. I wanted to dress for the game and impress a girl I was taking to homecoming, so I played like a demon to earn a spot on the sideline. Two days before the game, I went to Coach Harring and asked to suit up. He said “yes.” I will always think Coach was impressed with my scrimmage effort (the first stringers simply pounded me) and was thrilled when he let me run out onto the field. I will always remember that, and the lesson that someone always recognizes sincere effort.



Janie Morgan, ’85 & ’86 

Janie Morgan, ’85 & ’86 

Executive director of the UWL Alumni Association 

I enjoyed working with Roger on the many championship football team alumni reunions over the years. He was always determined to do whatever we could to make it a valuable experience for the players. He was so proud of his alums. He readily shared their successes and was honored to have coached them and be a part of their lives. 

When he talked about his wife, Mary, he lit up. You could see how much he loved her. They were true partners and raised a beautiful family together.  

I would see Roger and the “coffee clutch” over at Cartwright or now at the Student Union. He always invited me to sit down and join them. He was inclusive, enjoyed hearing others’ stories and wanted to continue to be part of the campus community.   

I will miss seeing him in the suites during home football games. I will miss his calls when it was time for a reunion. I will miss his smile. And I will miss his love for his alma mater. Roger Harring was one of the best. I feel very blessed to have worked with him and, more importantly, to call him a friend.


Honor Roger Harring with a donation to a scholarship in his name: uwlax.edu/foundation

Roger Harring, ’58 & '62, is carried on the shoulders of his players following one of three national titles.