First coaches to be inducted into Athletic Hall of Fame

SmithandSchake

 Pitt-Bradford opened its doors in the fall of 1963, but it wasn’t until 1967 that the campus fielded its athletic teams. Two men played a big role in introducing the university to collegiate sports: Art Schake and Keith Smith.

The pair will be inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame during Alumni and Family Weekend. A public ceremony will take place at the weekend Awards Brunch at 11 a.m. Oct. 6 in the Mukaiyama University Room in the Frame-Westerberg Commons. Tickets are $15 for adults; $6 for children 6 to 12. Children five and under are free.

Schake was hired by the university to lead the physical education department. He arrived in August of 1963, shortly before classes started, and introduced intramurals to the student body. Ultimately, he would serve as the school’s first athletic director and head coach.

Smith, a high school classmate of Schake’s at Keystone High School in Knox, Pa., arrived on campus less than a year later and also served as a physical education instructor.

Schake graduated from Slippery Rock, where he competed on the swimming team, and Smith was an alumna of current day Anderson University (Ind.), where he played baseball.

Both taught classes at the local YMCA, and Schake also acted as the dean of men, residing with his wife and two kids on the second floor of the Emery Hotel, the main residential hall for men. To accommodate his family, the university adjoined two rooms to create a small apartment. It was modest living quarters, but convenient at the time.

While Schake commanded the respect of the students, he was not immune to the pranks that often took place among the residents. One of the more memorable capers included a group of students releasing a small garden snake underneath the crack of the apartment door.

In time, the university approved men’s basketball as its first collegiate sport, and the Panthers took the court first time ever in 1966 with Schake roaming the sideline as the team’s leader. Smith was the assistant and responsible for coaching the freshman team.

The two coaches were strict disciplinarians, and utilized the first three weeks of practice to “whip the boys in shape.” Practices were held on the third floor of Third Ward Elementary school. Bradford Central Christian High School played host to all games.

The Panthers won their first ever game, defeating Edinboro State 74-62. They would go on the road a week later and defeat Clarion State 95-87. Just three games into the season, the team’s most talented player was kicked off the team for horsing around in practice. Schake and Smith refused to stand for anything but full dedication. The team would go on to finish 5-5 in its inaugural season.

In the fall of 1967, the roles were reversed for Smith and Schake. Smith served as the head coach of the school’s first ever soccer team, while Schake acted as the assistant. The original team consisted of 15 players, including many who had never played the game before. In order to field a competitive group, the two coaches prepared the players with rigorous training. They installed an attitude of toughness by pushing the Panthers to not use their shortcomings as excuses.

Practices and games were played at the Harri Emery Airport, where the campus stands today, and the conditions were not always ideal. Mud-caked surfaces seemed to be a recurring theme in that inaugural season. The team traveled in retired school buses to away games.

Despite the obstacles, the Panthers managed to finish 3-2, earning victories over the Penn State Behrend, Penn State Altoona and Allegheny College.

In 1967-68, the basketball schedule expanded to 16 games as Pitt-Bradford joined the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Junior College League. Other members of the league included Altoona, DuBois, Jamestown, Erie and New Kensington. The Panthers would go 4-12 in their second season.

Schake would leave the university in August of 1968, accepting a job working for Kelly Tires in Cumberland, Md. Smith, who earned his master’s degree while working at Pitt-Bradford, ascended to the role of athletic director. He would also fill the void of head men’s basketball coach left open after Schake’s departure.

The soccer team added an extra game in the fall of 1968, pushing its season to six games, and while records are incomplete, the Panthers were 2-1-1 through the first four games of the season under Smith.

The 1968-69 basketball team improved to 6-9 with Smith at the helm, and the Panthers once again competed in the Western Division of the Pennsylvania Junior College League. It marked the first year the top two teams during the regular season would meet in a championship match to declare a winner.

Smith would leave the school before the start of the 1969-70 school year, accepting a coaching position at Chamberlain High School in Twinsburg, Ohio. There he would coach baseball and football before eventually earning the title of athletic director.

Schake and Smith were remembered as passionate and gifted teachers by their former players. They were tough, but fair; qualities necessary for any athletic department in its infancy years.

Panther athletics have come a long way since the university’s first two coaches patrolled the sidelines. In the 1970’s, Pitt-Bradford was member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA). In 1980, the school joined the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), and in 1997, it became a member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III. This past spring, the department added its 15th sport in women’s bowling.

Schake and Smith laid the foundation for what every Panther sees today. As we celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary, it’s imperative to reserve both time and space for their endeavors. While the faces have changed over the years, the pride Schake and Smith infused the campus with in its early days still exists. It’s in the DNA of any Panther the moment he or she slips on that jersey. It’s Panther Pride.