A lot of winning at Linfield

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 11, 2009

Associated Press
McMINNVILLE, Ore. ó There’s a hand-painted sign above the entrance to the Linfield Wildcats’ locker room at Maxwell Field that reads: “Are you a better football player today than you were yesterday?”
It’s a reminder of a message players there have been taking to heart for decades, since the Division III team embarked on its streak of winning seasons in 1956.
That 54-season streak is the longest in the nation among NCAA schools of all divisions ó far surpassing Florida State’s current run of 33 straight winning seasons. However, the Seminoles are cutting it close at 6-6 this season, facing West Virginia in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.
Linfield is a private university of some 2,100 students in the heart of McMinnville, located about 35 miles southwest of Portland, in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country. The town is known as the birthplace of children’s author Beverly Cleary, and for a famous UFO sighting in the 1950s that spawned a yearly festival there.
In many ways Linfield looks like a small East Coast college plunked down in the West, complete with red-brick colonial dormitories and a bell tower that chimes on the hour.
Football Saturdays during the fall are all about the Wildcats. Purple-clad fans dot the town’s main streets before games and cars proudly display their Wildcat flags. The atmosphere harkens back to a simpler time.
“Linfield is Linfield, I think, because of that winning tradition,” said former quarterback and current assistant coach Brett Elliott. “Every year we continue that tradition, the streak that we’re on, it fuels the fire, so to speak.”
The Wildcat mystique was born under Paul Durham, who coached the team from 1948-67, and then continued by coach Ad Rutschman, head coach from 1967-91.
Rutschman also served as the baseball coach for 13 seasons and the school’s athletic director for 25 years, and currently works as an assistant to coach Joseph Smith. Rutschman is the only college coach at any level to have won national titles in both football and baseball.
He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998.
“Much of the success I think stems from Ad Rutschman. I would liken him to a John Wooden-type of coach, he was such a great teacher,” said Oregon State assistant coach Jay Locey, who coached the Wildcats from 1996 to 2006 and led the team to its last national championship in 2004.