Clifford Keen was born in 1901 on a ranch in Western Oklahoma. He attended Oklahoma A & M (now known as Oklahoma State University) and was a star in football, track, and wrestling. He received All-American mention in football, sprinted in track, and was undefeated for three years as a wrestler. He was selected for the 1924 U.S. Olympic team, but did not compete because of a broken rib.
Keen became head wrestling coach at the University of Michigan in 1925. During the next 45 years he produced 13 Big Ten championship teams and 3 second place squads. His wrestlers won 11 individual national crowns and 81 Big Ten titles. He compiled a dual meet record of 268-91-9.
Keen served as a naval commander during World War II, after which he returned to Michigan to continue coaching. His 45-year tenure at the University of Michigan is one of the longest in collegiate coaching annals.
Keen served on the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1938 to 1952, and was manager of the U.S. team for the 1948 Olympic Games. He pioneered the development of safety equipment and head-gear for wrestlers, and started an athletic equipment company to which he has devoted much time since retiring from coaching in 1970. He has received numerous honors and awards, and was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma in September, 1976.