CENTERVILLE, Mass. — Former Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Commissioner Rudy Keeling passed away on Saturday in Londonderry, N.H. after a long battle with health related issues. He was 66.
“On behalf of the ECAC staff, Board of Directors and the entire ECAC membership, I would like to extend our most heartfelt condolences on the passing of Rudy Keeling,” said ECAC Commissioner Dr. Kevin T. McGinniss, adding “Rudy’s legacy as an accomplished and distinguished coach and athletics administrator will live on. Rudy took over as ECAC Commissioner at a very challenging time and was able to bring forward some important initiatives to advance the organization. We will be forever thankful for all he did in support of the ECAC.”
In May of 2007, Keeling was named the seventh Commissioner of the ECAC, where he served until his retirement in January. When he was appointed, he became the first African-American ever to head a major sports conference. As Commissioner, Keeling was responsible for providing leadership, direction, consultation and support for the Conference’s programs.
“Rudy Keeling gave his heart and soul to intercollegiate athletics at all levels. I had the good fortune to know him as a basketball coach and administrator,” Fairfield University Athletic Director and ECAC President Gene Doris said. “He was a colleague in the true sense of the word. He enriched the lives of all those around him and we are all indebted to him for the final years of his service as Commissioner of the ECAC. We will miss him.”
During his tenure, Keeling was instrumental in the formation of the Division II Lacrosse League, expanding Division I Lacrosse membership, creating the Holiday Festival Basketball Tournament at Walt Disney World, Florida and establishing the Labor Day Soccer Classic. It is Keeling who is responsible for establishing the ECAC as the host for the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Frozen Four in 2014.
“Today, the world of intercollegiate athletics feels great sadness with the passing of Rudy Keeling. He was a true gentleman and his legacy will reflect on his supreme commitment and dedication to the student-athletes with whom he came in contact as a coach, administrator and Commissioner,” former ECAC Interim Commissioner Steve Bamford said, “Today is a very sad day in the history of the Eastern College Athletic Conference and for all of our member institutions.”
Keeling consistently represented the ECAC and its constituency in the highest manner to other national, regional and local athletics governing bodies and educational institutions, as well as private and public organizations.
“Rudy came aboard as our Commissioner with a wealth of experience, both in administration and coaching. He also had a passion for college athletics and the ECAC mission,” said Yale University Athletics Director and former ECAC President Wayne Dean. “Throughout his tenure, he shared this passion with everyone he came in contact with. He served us all so well as our Commissioner and even better as our friend. He will be missed by so many.”
Prior to his tenure at the ECAC, Rudy Keeling served as Athletic Director at Emerson College in Boston from 2002 until 2007. Keeling added five varsity sports, hired nine new coaches and gave Emerson its first-ever field for men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer and softball. Through Keeling’s leadership, the Bobbi Brown and Steven Plofker Gym was opened in September 2006, giving Emerson a place for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball.
Before he became an administrator, Keeling was a Division I Head Basketball Coach for 13 seasons. He began his head coaching career at the University of Maine in 1988 and coached in Orono through the 1996 season. He compiled a record of 106-122 and earned the North Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year award after leading the Black Bears to a school-record 20 wins in 1993-94. After the 1996 season, Keeling became the Head Coach of the Northeastern University Men’s Basketball team. Over the course of five seasons, he led the Huskies to a record of 48-92. Prior to his time as a Head Coach, Keeling was an Assistant Coach and the primary recruiter at Marquette University.
The New York City native graduated from Quincy College in 1970, majoring in History. Keeling and his wife, Jane, raised four children.