JEFFERSON CITY (WATE) – After 37 seasons, Carson-Newman Head Coach Ken Sparks announced he will no longer be coaching.
Christian principles have been the driving force behind Sparks’ coaching career. Sparks was diagnosed with cancer on June 30, 2012. He credits his faith with bringing him to Carson-Newman in 1980 and says his faith will see him through his latest challenge.
In 2012, Sparks made history, becoming only the 13th man in college football to record 300 wins. He was also the winningest active head coach in the country, passing legendary Alabama head coach Bear Bryant with a win on homecoming in 2014 over North Greenville.
“This day is hard,” said Coach Sparks at a news conference Monday. “I am going to see what the Lord has for me.”
Sparks took over the Farragut High School football program in 1977, guiding the Admirals to a 29-5 record. Sparks was twice-voted KIL and KFA Coach of the Year. After three seasons, Sparks was asked to take command of the Carson-Newman football program.
The Knoxville native thanked those around him for the support he has received at Carson-Newman and said he was forever thankful.
“It’s been an unbelievable journey. There have been some unbelievable teaching times,” said Sparks. “The Lord is so good.”
Carson Newman Director of Athletics Allen Morgan said the university will start the search for another coach quickly and hopes the process will be done quickly. He said he plans on meeting with coaching staff on Tuesday and going from there.
Morgan also said that he admired Coach Sparks, because the job was never about the salary. He said it was about God’s mission for him.
“There are very few Ken Sparks out there,” said Morgan. “Ken has made an impact in the world of football, this community and for this university. His example will be here forever.”
Coach Butch Jones also commented on Sparks’ retirement at a press conference on Tuesday.
I love Coach Sparks. You talk about one of the greatest individuals… and not just a great football coach who has accomplished a lot in his career, but an even better human being and all of the lives that he has affected along the way. I really have enjoyed building this relationship with him. We have had some mutual friends that kind of put us together when I first came here. I’ve had the opportunity to go speak at his clinic the last couple years and he has come here numerous times to watch bowl practices and come and just kind of fellowship with each other. He’s what this game should stand for in terms of a human being and impacting the lives of many individuals and we also talk about being a champion, he’s a champion in every sense of the way and our friendship means the world to me.”