Charles Keating, UC's First National Champion, Passes Away

April 2, 2014

Charles H. Keating Jr., the first NCAA champion in University of Cincinnati history, passed away at the age of 90 on Monday, March 31. It was nearly 46 years to the day he won the 200 butterfly at the 1946 NCAA Championships.

The Cincinnati native's swimming career took off when he returned to UC after serving in the United States Navy during World War II. Keating won the Ohio Intercollegiate Conference championship in the 200 breaststroke in 1945 before earning a national title in that event in 1946 (the event was known as breaststroke at the time, but has since been reclassified as the butterfly in the NCAA record book).

On March 30, 1946, Keating won an exciting race before over 2,500 fans at Yale's Payne Whitney Gymnasium, edging Cornell's Paul Murray and future Ohio State coaching legend James Counsilman by a foot to win the event with a time of 2:26.2. Not only was it the first national title in any sport by a Bearcat, but Keating and teammate Roy Lagaly became the first UC swimmers to earn All-America honors.

Keating went on to become a prominent banker and financier in the Phoenix, Ariz., area. He was involved in the savings and loan collapse of the late 1980's, leading to a four-year prison term for fraud.

He remained an avid swimmer throughout his life and Keating's family founded and operated the Phoenix Swim Club. His grandson, Gary Hall, Jr., went on to win 10 Olympic swimming medals, including five golds.

Keating's brother, Bill Keating Sr. and his nephew, Bill Keating Jr., were also UC swimmers. All three are members of the UC Athletics James P. Kelly Sr. Athletics Hall of Fame. Bill Sr. was an NCAA Silver Anniversary Medal Award winner, former chairman of the UC Board of Trustees and namesake of the Keating Aquatics Center. Bill Jr. is a longtime supporter of women's sports in the Cincinnati area and received UC's Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2013.