Fans who attended Willamette University football games in 1997 remember it as the magical year that quarterback Chuck Pinkerton helped lead the Bearcats to the NAIA national championship game. In 1997, Pinkerton completed 97 of 160 passes (60.6%) for 1,268 yards and 10 touchdowns. He had 614 rushing yards and averaged 156.8 yards of total offense per game. He also contributed as a punter, averaging 33 yards per punt.
He broke his leg in the NAIA Division II semifinals in a 17-7 win over Sioux Falls (S.D.). He was unable to play in the NAIA Championship game, which Willamette lost to Findlay University (Ohio), 14-7.
Pinkerton started all four years at Willamette from 1994-97 and quarterbacked the Bearcats to conference titles (in 1995, 1996 and 1997. He was named Honorable Mention All-America twice by the NAIA, was a co-winner of the J.H. Booth Award and was chosen First Team Northwest Conference in 1996 and 1997. He ranks first in Willamette’s record book with 7,844 yards of career total offense and is second with 77 total touchdowns (rushing and passing).
Since graduating, Pinkerton has been an assistant coach for the Bearcats with his focus on the quarterbacks. He helped coach the 2008 team to a 10-0 regular season, an NCAA Playoff berth and an 11-1 overall record. His efforts have helped several WU quarterbacks put together outstanding seasons, including Grant Leslie, who ranked fifth in the nation with a 170.86 passing efficiency rating in 2008.
Two years ago, Pinkerton and the rest of the 1997 Willamette football team were inducted into the WU Athletics Hall of Fame in the team category. This year, Pinkerton will be inducted in the athlete category for his individual leadership and success.