Earlier this month, the Elizabethtown College community lost two icons when Frank Keath ’49 and Bill Foster ’54 passed away. Both men made their mark on the men’s basketball program at Etown and their impact is still felt today. Keath and Foster were charter inductees into the Ira R. Herr Athlete Hall of Fame in 1975.
Keath was born on Aug. 4, 1927 in Schaefferstown, Pa. and graduating from Cornwall High School before attending Etown in the mid 1940s. In a game against Bridgewater (Va.) during the 1946-47 season, Keath went off for 43 points which remains tied for the most points ever scored in a single game by a Blue Jay. Keath’s career point total of 1,873 places him second all-time in the program and his 21.3 points per game scoring average during his four year career between 1945-49 is a Blue Jay record that has not been broken.
After graduating in 1949, Keath went on to play semi-professional basketball for the Berwick Carbuilders of the Eastern Pennsylvania Basketball League where he led the team in scoring during the 1949-50 season with 13.6 points per game.
In addition to his on-court accomplishments, Keath went on to teach mathematics for over 40 years. He also coached and officiated basketball, soccer and baseball. Keath was inducted into the Central Chapter (PA) Sports Hall of Fame in 1974.
Foster was born on Aug. 19, 1930 and graduated Etown in 1954 after serving in the United States Air Force. He was a part of the men’s basketball program during his time as a Blue Jay but found his calling during the 1952-53 seasons and a student coach of the junior varsity team. Foster would go on to enjoy an exceptional professional career as a coach.
His first collegiate coaching job came at Bloomsburg State College (now Bloomsburg University), where he led his team’s to a 45-11 record over three seasons. Foster would later coach for 30 seasons at the Division I level with Rutgers, Utah, South Carolina, Northwestern and national powerhouse Duke University.
During his six year tenure as the Blue Devils head coach, Foster led Duke to a 113-64 record with one regular-season ACC championship, two ACC Tournament championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances.
In 1978, Foster led the Blue Devils to a 27-7 record and a birth in the National Title Game and was named National Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC).
Current Duke Univeristy men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is the all-time wins leader in men’s college basketball with 1,032 and counting, had this to say of Foster on GoDuke.com. “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Bill Foster, who was such a vital part of this program’s rich history. His Blue Devils teams from the late 1970s were among the best to ever play at Duke.”
Coach Krzyzewski went on to say, “As accomplished as he was as a basketball coach, anyone who knew Bill would agree he had one of the uniquely exuberant personalities in the sport that he loved so much. His legacy will not only be the significant basketball contributions he made, but the millions of smiles he helped create along the way.”
Foster brought his winning attitude everywhere he went, helping turn around a Rutgers program that was 5-17 in his first season in 1963-64 to a 22-7 team and a third place finish in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in his fourth season.
He served as associate commissioner at the Southwest Conference and as a consultant for the Western Athletic Conference and Big 12 Conference. Foster was also a member of the board of trustees of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, serving as chairman from 1996-98.
Etown honored Foster in 2007 when he received the Blue Jay Athletic Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award.