Bill Keenist embarks upon his 29th year within the Lions’ organization. In 2001, he was promoted to the post of senior vice president of communications. Keenist is the team’s chief spokesman on organizational matters.
Along with leading the team’s football communications initiatives and operations, he also works closely with other team business initiatives, including broadcasting, community affairs, corporate communications, digital media, marketing, sales and tickets.
Additionally, he also is on the Board of Directors for Detroit Lions Charities.
From 1996-2001, Keenist, as a team vice president, supervised the areas of communications, broadcasting and marketing. Under his direction, the Lions launched several in-house media initiatives in the 1990s, including: a team television show, radio shows, a state-wide preseason TV and highlight show network, team newspaper, magazine and Internet site. Many of those entities are still in operation today. Keenist, also coordinated the teams’ broadcast negotiations for local TV and Radio from 1989 thru 2001.
Keenist’s NFL career began in 1981 when he worked for the Washington Redskins as a public relations assistant. He was a member of the Redskins staff when the team won Super Bowl XVII in 1983 over Miami. He also served as the Redskins’ director of promotions in 1983.
After leaving the Redskins, Keenist returned home to the Pittsburgh area where he was the public relations director for the Pittsburgh Maulers of the United States Football League in 1984. After the Maulers’ one season in the USFL, Keenist served as the sports public relations director for the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, where he worked primarily with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Keenist’s talents have been recognized around the NFL. For Super Bowls XXIV through XXVIII he had the honor of being selected a public relations co-captain, which involves the coordination of all media-related activities at the Super Bowl. In all, he has worked a total of 20 Super Bowls for the NFL, In the past, he has served on the following NFL PR/Marketing Committees: Broadcasting; Governmental Affairs and Insider Magazine. Keenist has been the P.R. Chairman of the NFC Central division and Chairman of the Public Relations Special Projects Committee.
In 2002, Keenist was honored by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association with the “Best of the Best” award, which annually honors the top sports public relations person in the Detroit media market. In 2003, the Lions’ 2002 club seat ticket commercial, produced by Keenist, was nominated for an EMMY, a first for any Lions’ production.
Also among Keenist’s accomplishments, he served as a member of Detroit’s Super Bowl XL Communications Task Force Committee, and played a key role in the organization’s public relations efforts during several Super Bowl XL related events.
Keenist holds a master’s degree in sports administration from Ohio University. He also received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ohio and was a recipient of a Sports Administration Scholarship from the NFL in 1981. As sports editor of The Ohio University Post in 1980, his sports section was named the Best College Sports Section in America by a national panel of sportswriters and columnists, an honor for which he received a post-graduate scholarship.
He then served a graduate internship at Duke University where he worked in the athletic department.
In 2004, Keenist was inducted into the Elizabeth Forward High School Hall of Fame in his hometown of Elizabeth, Pa., and was a member of the school’s Class of 1976.
In 2006, Keenist was awarded a medal of merit by Ohio’s Alumni Association, which annually honors alumni who have distinguished themselves in their respective professions.
Among his philanthropic endeavors, Keenist works closely with Lions Hall of Fame tight end Charlie Sanders and his foundation’s Have a Heart, Save a Life program that raises awareness and funding for the detection of potentially serious heart conditions in young athletes’ through free heart screenings. Keenist is also on the Board of Directors for Team Joseph, a local charity fighting Duchene Muscular Dystrophy.
Keenist, 55, lives in Oxford with his wife Cindy and their three children: sons, Billy and Christopher, and daughter, Lindsay. He is an active member of Oxford High School’s Athletic Boosters, a member of the Oxford School District Strategic Planning Committee and serves on Oxford’s School Board.
Both sons, Billy and Christopher, played college football at Adrian (Mich.) College and now are coaching in the Oxford High School Football program.
Tori Petry reports on the annual food and drink event at Ford Field that aims to raise money to impact food insecurity through Eastern Market and give fans an up-close-and-personal experience with their favorite Lions players.