Rick Keeley retires as head football coach at Berks Catholic [updated]

Nov. 15—On the day his retirement as head football coach at Berks Catholic was announced, Rick Keeley mentioned that his son Michael and daughter-in-law Jean asked he and his wife, Sharon, to babysit their four children later that day while they attended parent-teacher conferences.

It's an anecdote that perfectly illustrates why Keeley told his team Wednesday during a meeting in Lloyd Wolf Gymnasium that he was stepping down after compiling a 280-160-3 record in 38 seasons as head coach at Holy Name, Hamburg and Berks Catholic.

"There's just so many other things that we want to do," Keeley said. "Football, as great as it's been for us — and I've enjoyed all 48 years of coaching; it's just been great — now, you know, other family comes into play."

Keeley, who turns 70 on Saturday, said he wants to spend more time with his family, be it his four children — sons Michael and Mark and daughters Amy and Megan — and their spouses; his 13 grandchildren; his 91-year-old father, Russell, who is still farming (and who Keeley said he would like to help); or Sharon.

"When my wife and I talk, she says, 'How much longer are you going to do this? Are you going to do it until something happens and you can't?' " Keeley said. "Then the things that we would like to do as a married couple — in June we were married for 46 years — then we can't do the things that we want to do together. Even if that thing we want to do is just sit on the front porch.

"But there's places we want to go, people we want to see, things we want to do and we want to do it while we're both healthy enough to do it."

Keeley said he has been "blessed" that Sharon completely understood the time and commitment it took for him to be a football coach. It remained akin to a full-time job, one that was a year-round commitment, even after he retired from teaching two years ago.

"I didn't mind it," Keeley said. "I loved every minute of it."

He compiled quite the resume.

Keeley was an assistant football coach for eight seasons at Holy Name before being hired as head coach in 1986. He left Holy Name to become the head coach at Hamburg for three seasons (1998-2000), then returned to Holy Name.

He went 118-41 in 13 seasons at Berks Catholic since being named the program's first coach following the merger of Holy Name and Central Catholic.

He won four District 3 titles at Berks Catholic — 2017 and 2016 in Class 4A, 2015 and 2013 in Class 2A — and one at Holy Name (2010 in Class 1A).

He was named District 3 Coach of the Year in 2015.

He won six league and section championships with the Blue Jays and five with the Saints.

This year, Berks Catholic went 5-6, ending its season with a 40-21 victory over Hamburg in the Eastern Conference Class 3A championship game.

"Being on the field at Hamburg after that game, we were excited," Keeley said. "You'd have thought we won the Super Bowl. That's about as good as what this team this year could be, and they met that, they met that goodness that they could be, and I shared it with them on the field. I really enjoyed that.

"I'm thinking that this championship is as good as any of the league championships or district championships that I've been involved in. When you work with kids and see them succeed, that's just such a good feeling. And I'm going to miss being out there with them."

There are other things that Keeley admits he will miss, such as practices and game day, the camaraderie of visiting with the opposing coaches before a game, and simply seeing kids grow.

He recalled a player who was thinking about not coming out for his sophomore season. Keeley, as he said he did with any player who considers stepping away, met with him. The player opted to continue playing and became a two-year starter at center, helping Holy Name go 11-2 when he was a junior in 1987.

That player was Bill Hess, now the athletic director at Berks Catholic.

"That's always been big for me," Keeley said, "to influence kids to come out, to get involved."

"I want to personally thank Coach Keeley for a lifetime of mentoring and for all he did for his players, his assistant coaches, and this community," Berks Catholic athletic director Bill Hess said in a statement. "He gave a young kid a shot at coaching back in 1992 and I couldn't be more grateful. It changed the trajectory of my life."

Keeley is a 1971 grad of St. Pius X High School in Pottstown, where he played football and baseball.

He went on to play collegiately at Kutztown, where he was a nose guard and earned three letters. He was a first-team all-conference pick his final two seasons and a team captain as a senior. He was selected to Kutztown's all-decade team of the 1970s, and still holds the school record for blocked punts in a season.

After working at St. Pius, Keeley was hired as a teacher at Holy Name in 1978.

Keeley has been inducted into the Holy Name Hall of Fame, the Berks County Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame, the Berks County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, the Tri-County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame and the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

"My family supported me in it for 48 years," Keeley said. "I got to coach both my sons. I got to see my daughter's play in high school because they were playing at the school where I was teaching and coaching. So it's been great for me. But you know, when is it time to retire? You're always telling kids not to quit, not to quit, not to quit. I'm not sure I know how to quit. So I stepped down as the head coach, but I'm still going to be around. I want to be around the kids. They keep me young.

"I just thought this would be a good time and my wife thought it would be a good time. We're both very happy with the decision."