Carson-Newman news office
JEFFERSON CITY — Carson Newman University football coach Ken Sparks, the nation’s active wins leader and the fifth winningest coach in college football history, announced his retirement during a press conference Nov. 14 inside the football athletic complex that bears his name.
Sparks, a member of Manley Baptist Church, Morristown, finishes his Carson-Newman career after 37 seasons with 338 wins, 99 losses and two ties. His career winning percentage of .7699 is the fourth highest in college football history while the 338 victories amount to the fifth best total nationally.
“On behalf of the entire Carson-Newman family I would like to thank the man who made winning football and Carson-Newman synonymous,” Carson-Newman University President Randall O’Brien said. “Even more important to him than the victories, Coach Ken Sparks wanted each young man to be a champion for Christ. What a legacy in football and life!”
In 2012 Sparks made history, becoming only the 13th man in college football to record 300 wins.
The coach is reluctant to shine the spotlight on himself and his accomplishments. Sparks would instead rather be measured by his impact in the lives of the young men and coaches who’ve been a part of his Carson-Newman family.
For Sparks, football is a laboratory of learning where he and his staff strive to develop the whole person — educationally, socially, athletically ,and spiritually.
While Sparks indicated he’s done coaching, his outlook and purpose remains the same as it has been.
“After 47 years, this is hard, but the mission hasn’t changes guys, I want y’all to understand that. My mission hasn’t changed,” Sparks said, fighting through tears. “What is my mission? [It] should be all of our missions and that is to honor and glorify the God who’s created us and has got big plans for us and is trying to do some unbelievable things through us and that’s what I want to continue to do.”
Sparks received a standing ovation from a crowd of administrators, coaches, and media assembled at the event.
Sparks was inducted into the inaugural NCAA Division II Hall of Fame Coaches Class in 2010. He also 1s a member of the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame, the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, the Carson-Newman Athletic Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame, and the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Sparks has been honored with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lifetime Achievement Award and National Coach of the Year. In 2002, Sparks received the All-American Football Foundation’s Johnny Vaught Lifetime Achievement Award.
“Every day that you trust the Lord is a celebration” Sparks said. “Every day that He gets to do only what He can do is a celebration. …”