With more than 25 years invested at Linfield College as head coach, assistant coach and former All-America defensive back, Joseph Smith is among the college's longest tenured coaches in any sport. Since becoming head coach in 2006, he has assembled a 71-15 win-loss record that includes five consecutive Northwest Conference championships and NCAA playoff berths with the Wildcats advancing as far as the NCAA semifinals and quarterfinals.
Smith replaced Jay Locey, who won 82 percent of his games over a 10-year span that saw the Linfield program emerge as a major player on the Division III level. Locey departed to take a position as assistant head coach at Oregon State University.
A popular but demanding coach, Smith served as an assistant at Linfield for 13 years, including seven seasons as defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2005. During his first season in charge, the Wildcats finished 6-3. Two of the Wildcats' losses came at the hands of Top 10 teams and the other was to a NCAA Division II program which enjoyed its best season in many years.
With Smith as defensive coordinator, Linfield finished No. 1 in the Northwest Conference in total defense and scoring defense four times. 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 six NWC titles from 2000 to 2005.
During his first six seasons on the staff, Smith worked specifically with the linebackers then defensive line, honing his leadership skills under Locey, who also coached Smith as a player. When he replaced Locey as coordinator, he took over the secondary.
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 senior on 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 Rutschman and played three seasons under the Hall of Fame coach. Rutschman retired from coaching in 1991, turning the program over to Langsdorf.
Smith graduated from Linfield with honors 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 school-age children, Josie, 16, Wyatt, 15, and Colton, 14.