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Linfield has produced 62 consecutive winning football seasons as another campaign draws near

By Joe Spears

Linfield’s current streak of winning seasons began with the 1956 Wildcats team that went 6-1-2. Linfield College photo

“The Mickey Mouse Club” debuted on American television in 1955. That same year, Linfield football posted a 3-6 record.

But while one of those programs was canceled four years later, the other turned things around the following season and is still going strong. Linfield football has won more games than it has lost every year since, and this year, it will launch another football autumn with 62 consecutive years of winning seasons behind it.

“The town has embraced the football program in a large way,” head coach Joe Smith says of McMinnville, Oregon. “Everyone loves a successful program, and more fans equals better business for the town.

“If you do something well and the right way, there’s an appreciation for it.”

The Wildcats’ streak began in 1956 with a 6-1-2 record, and since then Linfield has won more than 80 percent of its games, compiling a mark of 500-114-10. The streak of winning years includes four undefeated and untied seasons, including 2004 when Linfield won the NCAA Division III title. Linfield won National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships with undefeated teams in 1982, 1984 and 1986.

And the team is still going strong. Smith, a former defensive back at Linfield, became head coach in 2006 — just eight years after the school joined Division III. Heading into this season, the team has lost only one Northwest Conference game in the past nine years.

“I’ve been around Linfield football my whole life,” says sophomore Zack Jenkins, a long snapper whose parents are both Linfield alumni. “I started playing football in seventh grade, but I’ve been going to Linfield games for as long as I can remember. … We’d always go to the games or alumni barbecues, and my parents have pictures of me when I was 4 wearing a Linfield jersey at the games. I wanted to keep playing and wanted to keep winning, so Linfield was the obvious choice.”

Yet Smith insists the streak doesn’t define the program.

“I wasn’t ever really aware of the streak as a player, and now the streak itself is never brought up by the team,” Smith says. “Expectations are always high for this team, and we talk to our guys about the process and value system that leads to the continued success.”

About Champion

Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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