Most of the men glorified in Linfield athletic legend have passed away, but their legacies live on not only in the continuing winning tradition of the sports program, but also in the names of the facilities used by students today to train and compete.
The Ted Wilson Gymnasium, Ad and Joan Rutschman Field House, Roy Helser Baseball Field, Paul Durham Foyer, Maxwell Field and Hal Smith Fitness Center all proclaim the names of the cornerstones of Linfield athletic tradition, Athletic Director Scott Carnahan said.
“When you name something after someone, it’s because of the feeling (they) were an outstanding person in that sport, (and) acknowledging the work they did,” Carnahan said.
What does it take to be honored with an entire building or stadium? Carnahan said longevity and success. For all of these men, it took a lifetime of dedication to Linfield students in the academic and athletic milieu promoting success both on and off the field.
During his 20-year career as the head coach for the men’s basketball team, he racked up an impressive 324-213 record.
He is best-known for leading the basketball team to 10 NAIA conference championships.
“Ted Wilson was probably the person who started the winning tradition in men’s basketball,” Carnahan said. “When we built the new building, it was logical we would name it after him.”
Just eight years after Wilson retired from coaching, the Health, Human Performance and Athletics complex was constructed with a new gym to replace the former cramped home court in the old Riley Gym, affectionately known as “House of Hustle,” for Wilson’s teams’ style of fast play. In 1989, it was dedicated as the Ted Wilson Gymnasium.
Wilson hung around McMinnville, staying involved to a lesser degree with the athletic program.
He passed away in 1996 from a heart attack on the racquetball courts.
Most players and coaches aspire to win one championship, but that wasn’t enough for Ad Rutschman.
First, as a star athlete at Linfield, Rutschman played football, basketball and baseball, excelling in all three. Known as the “Flying Dutchman,” Rutschman was an All-American running back, but eventually chose to pursue a career as a teacher and coach rather than a professional athlete.
As head football coach, he led the Wildcats to three national NAIA championships and 15 conference titles.
Rutschman topped his own record, leading the baseball team to six conference championships and seven national titles. He is the only college coach at any division level to win national titles in both football and baseball.
There was only one place to go after all his achievements. Rutschman moved up to serve as Linfield athletic director for a quarter of a century.
He continues to teach a course at Linfield and to serve as special assistant to the vice president of College Relations. The field house is names for Rutschman and his wife Joan, who served as ticket collector for 27 years.
Having never played high school sports, Helser stepped onto the football and baseball fields and basketball courts and found his place.
Known as “Lefty,” southpaw Helser went on to a 14-year professional baseball career with the Cincinnati Reds and later with the Portland Beavers.
As a coach, he led the 1966 baseball team to its first national championship.
He succeeded in turning an unsuccessful team into a perennial conference champion, Sports Information Director Kelly Bird said.
“He was revered by his players,” Carnahan said.
To honor his contributions, especially to the baseball program, Linfield named the field after Roy Helser in 1973, the year he retired from his position as athletic director. Helser died in 1994.
A classmate of Helser’s, Paul Durham was a triple-sport athlete, excelling in football, basketball and track.
Competing in the 1930s, he was one of the few Wildcats in history to earn 10 or more letters.
Just a decade after graduating, he returned as the football coach.
Durham is credited with starting the winning-seasons record of the football team, which now stands at 52 seasons.
He was soon promoted to athletic director. But he didn’t let the demands of the job keep him from doing everything—Durham also moonlighted as the sports editor of the McMinnville News-Register for several years.
Durham left his position at Linfield to become athletic director at the University of Hawaii.
He died in 2007. The foyer adjacent to the trophy case in the HHPA complex commemorates his contributions to the program.
If anyone could be in three places at once, it was Hal Smith.
In his 31-year career at Linfield, Smith served as head coach of cross country, track and wrestling teams, as well as serving as a professor of physical education and the college intramural director.
His pleasant demeanor prompted the students to nickname him “Happy Hal.” In honor of Smith, the fitness center in the HHPA complex is named after him.
Several other places around campus feature prominent names as a result of generous donations. Maxwell Field is named after the Maxwell family.
They donated the land in the 1920s when the college decided to move the field from where Melrose Hall now stands, to its current location.
The Jim Wright Stadium on Helser Field sports the name of a benefactor who greatly contributed to the construction of the stadium.
All of these men shared a deep respect for Linfield athletics and all of the students who played for them.
They are held in high esteem by the students and alumni of Linfield, Carnahan said.
As a student in the late sixties, Carnahan knew Wilson, Helser and Rutschman.
“They are all models of what we try to emulate,” Carnahan said. “They are all classy gentlemen; they all did things the right way.”