Smith, a 1993 Linfield graduate, succeeds Jay Locey, who resigned to accept an assistant coaching position at Oregon State University.
Hellie said he was pleased that the college is able to promote someone to the position who has an intimate knowledge of both the football program and the institution as a whole.
"As a student, Joe was the epitome of the Linfield scholar-athlete: he was not only outstanding on the field, he was one of the top students in his graduating class," Hellie added. "For the last 12 years he has been an excellent coach, serving in positions of increasing responsibility. He played for Ad Rutschman; he coached with Jay Locey. Like them, Joe will emphasize character, teamwork, academic excellence and athletic commitment."
Scott Carnahan, athletic director, said Smith understands the importance and meaning of the term student-athlete.
"He will continue to teach success and character-building skills that have been a part of this program for many years," Carnahan said. "I am confident that he will continue the great success we have enjoyed for so many years. Joe has demonstrated a wealth of football knowledge through his leadership as the defensive coordinator. With the help of our great staff, I'm sure he will be a successful head coach."
Smith has served as an assistant coach at Linfield for the past 12 years, including the past six as defensive coordinator. He has also worked as junior varsity baseball coach since 1999. In addition to his coaching responsibilities, Smith teaches in the Health, Human Performance and Athletics Department.
Linfield has finished No. 1 in the Northwest Conference in total defense and scoring defense four times since Smith became defensive coordinator in 2000. During that time, the Wildcats went 60-6 and made five NCAA Division III playoff appearances. Linfield captured the 2004 Division III national championship with a 28-21 win over Mary Hardin-Baylor, a victory that was clinched by a defensive sack in the waning seconds. The Wildcats have won or shared the last six NWC titles.
During his first six seasons on the staff, Smith coached the secondary, defensive line and linebackers, honing his leadership skills under Locey, who was defensive coordinator while Smith played for the Wildcats.
A second team NAIA All-American in 1992, Smith was a four-year starter at cornerback and a two-time first team all-conference selection. He earned national distinction as NAIA Division II Defensive Player of the Week in the opening game of 1992, helping Linfield upset second-ranked Pacific Lutheran. He finished his career with 16 interceptions, third-most in program history, and 168 total tackles.
Smith was a member of Linfield's 1992 team that went 12-1 with its only blemish coming in a 26-13 loss to Findlay (Ohio) in the NAIA Division II national championship game. As a player, he helped the Wildcats capture consecutive Columbia Football Association-Mt. Hood League championships in 1991 and 1992.
He was recruited to Linfield by Ad Rutschman and played three seasons under the Hall of Fame coach. Rutschman retired from coaching in 1991, turning the program over to Ed Langsdorf.
Smith graduated from Linfield in 1993 with a bachelor's degree in psychology. As a senior, he earned distinction as Linfield's 1992-93 male athlete of the year. He went on to earn a master's degree in sports psychology from Oregon State in 1996.
A native of Grants Pass, Smith and his wife, Darla, live in McMinnville with their three children, Josie, Wyatt and Colton.
QUOTING LINFIELD COACH JOE SMITH
On continuing Linfield's enviable tradition
"Linfield's football program is rooted in its own unique culture of character and excellence. I strongly believe there is a 'Linfield' way of doing things, and it has been passed down from coach to coach and from senior class to senior class. Coaches Rutschman, Langsdorf and Locey are the coaches I have strived to emulate professionally as well as personally, and I am indebted to them. I am certain that I have been influenced and mentored by a collection of coaches that might be unequaled in the Northwest, and I am thankful to God for having put me in their sphere of influence. To be given the privilege and responsibility to continue their work is a tremendous honor and I am very humbled by it."
On the loss of former coach Jay Locey
"Collectively, we are going to really miss Coach Locey. His departure is a hard loss for all of us. Personally, it is a great loss for me, as I have either played for him, or coached under him, for 17 years."
On the coaching staff he inherits
"I believe our staff is very talented and committed, I am blessed to inherit such a staff. I have no doubt we will be able to carry on the tradition of this great program. The guiding principles that Coach Rutschman taught us, and that Coaches Langsdorf and Locey have carried on since, will still be our focus. That is, we will try to make each one of our players a better person first, and a better athlete second. We will focus on character values such as work ethic, integrity, handling adversity, a team focus, and doing your best. That will be our true measure of success, and as a by-product, the wins will come."
On becoming Linfield head coach
"Being the head football coach at Linfield is a long-term goal that I have had. It's something I had hoped would happen after Coach Locey retired. That opportunity has presented itself sooner, rather than later."
On Linfield's style of play
"Linfield will stick to the same style of play that has brought our teams such great success. Our offense, with Jim Nagel as offensive coordinator, will remain wide open and committed to a balanced attack of both running and passing the football. Defensively, we'll still be aggressive with a pressure-based, multi-front defense. I don't expect that much is really going to change."
On the 2006 schedule
"We face a very challenging schedule, particularly in the early going. I'm confident by the end of the season, we'll be a very good football team."