Keith Smith held a significant role establishing the athletics department at Pitt-Bradford during the university’s infant years. Hired in 1964 to serve as a physical education instructor, he also served as the school’s first men’s soccer coach.
Smith worked along high school classmate and friend, Art Schake, who served as the school’s first athletic director, and taught classes at the local YMCA.
Smith served as the assistant coach under Schake for the inaugural men’s basketball team in 1966-67. He coached the freshmen while also assisting with the varsity squad. The Panthers went 5-5 in their first season.
In the fall of 1967, Smith guided the first-ever men’s soccer team to a 3-2 record, tallying wins over Penn State Behrend, Penn State Altoona and Allegheny. The team consisted of 15 members, many who had never played soccer before. Practices and games were conducted at the Harri Emery Airport where the campus stands today. The schedule expanded by a game in 1968, and, while records are incomplete, Pitt-Bradford was 2-1-1 through its first four games.
Smith was promoted to athletic director and head basketball coach in 1968. He guided the basketball team to a then-school record six wins during the 1968-69 season. It marked the second straight year the Panthers competed in the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Junior College League.
While working at the university, Smith completed his master’s degree, which included making weekly trips to Pittsburgh to fulfill his requirements.
A graduate of current-day Anderson College, he played on the baseball team. He would later serve as a baseball and football coach at Chamberlain High School in Twinsburg, Ohio. Smith was eventually promoted to athletics director and assisted in upgrading the school’s athletic facilities.
As a coach, Smith was adept at recognizing strengths and weaknesses but provided all his players a fair opportunity to compete. His contributions to Pitt-Bradford athletics were integral during the university’s infancy, and his impact on the department today is immeasurable.
Art Schake was instrumental in establishing the Pitt-Bradford athletics department during the university’s infant years. He was hired by the school to lead the physical education department and eventually served as the first athletic director and coach.
Schake taught classes at the local YMCA and served as the Dean of Men on the second floor of the Emery Hotel, the main residential hall for men attending Pitt-Bradford. He also taught golf and tennis and organized the university’s intramurals sports.
Pitt-Bradford approved men’s basketball as its first collegiate sport, and the Panthers took the court in 1966 with Schake roaming the sideline as the team’s coach. His friend and high school classmate, Keith Smith, served as the assistant. The Panthers defeated Edinboro 74-62 in their first-ever game, and a week later they knocked off Clarion 95-87 on the road. Pitt-Bradford would go 5-5 under Schake in its inaugural season. He conducted practices on the third floor of Third Ward Elementary School, and Bradford Central Christian High School served as the Panthers’ home court.
In 1967-68, the men’s basketball schedule expanded to 16 games as Pitt-Bradford joined the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Junior College League. The Panthers finished 4-12 that season.
Schake also served as the assistant men’s soccer coach under Smith, which debuted in the fall of 1967. The Panthers went 3-2 in their inaugural season, earning victories over Penn State Behrend, Penn State Altoona and Allegheny. Practices and games were played at the Harri Emery Airport where the campus stands today.
A native of Oil City, Pa., Schake was a gifted athlete who was blessed with the aptitude of teaching. He was a passionate and encouraging coach who earned the respect of his players.
He graduated from Slippery Rock University and competed on the swimming team, specializing in the butterfly swim and diving.
Schake passed away in 2002 at the age of 62 after an 11-year battle with leukemia. His original prognosis was no more than two years.
No one played a bigger role in laying the foundation for Pitt-Bradford athletics than Schake.