For over 40 years in the first half of the 20th century, Keene Fitzpatrick was arguably the leading figure in the world of intercollegiate athletic training, physical education, and its applications in track & field, football, rowing, and several other sports.
Fitzpatrick held stints at Yale and Michigan, but served the longest tenure as head coach at Princeton for 22 years (1911-1932).
Fitzpatrick was Michigan’s first track & field coach, serving as their head man for over a decade. Within his first four years as coach, Fitzpatrick’s men would win six gold and nine total Olympic medals at the 1904 St. Louis Games. Overall, Michigan track and field athletes won 15 Olympic medals, including 7 golds, the squad held a 24-2-1 dual meet record and won three Big Ten titles with Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick tutored Olympians Archie Hahn, Ralph Rose, Ralph Craig, Charles Dvorak and Charles Schule among others.
Many schools tried to lure Fitzpatrick for his services, but only Princeton was successful. At the time of his leaving Michigan, Fitzpatrick was earning $3,000 a year. Princeton asked Fitzpatrick to name his price, which was an unheard of $8,000 a year. To Fitzpatrick’s surprise, Princeton obliged and the rest is history.
While at Princeton, the Tigers would claim four runner-up team titles and 15 individual crowns in the IC4A with Fitzpatrick at the helm.
While at Yale, Fitzpatrick is also credited for conceiving a new pole-vaulting technique for its time that led to the setting of a world record.
Fitzpatrick was also the first president of the Association of College Track Coaches of America, taking over as leader of the organization in 1918.
Not only was Fitzpatrick among the early pioneers in coaching track & field athletes to high accolades with his knowledge of physiology, but he was also among the first pioneers in athletic training. During his over decade stint at Michigan as head athletic trainer, the Wolverine football squad was very successful, holding a winning percentage of over .900. Fitzpatrick also held the role as head football coach at Yale and Michigan for a total of seven years in the 1890s.
Born in Natick, Mass., in 1864, Fitzpatrick died in Princeton, N.J., at age 79 in 1944.