Ken Sparks (February 25, 1944 – March 29, 2017) was an American football coach and player. He served as the head football coach at Carson–Newman University in Jefferson City, Tennessee from 1980 until his retirement at the end of the 2016 season. He is currently the record-holder for the most wins as a coach in NCAA Division II history. His Carson–Newman Eagles won five NAIA Championships (1983–1984, 1986, 1988–1989), and were three times runners-up in the NCAA Division II playoffs (1996, 1998, and 1999).
|Born||February 25, 1944|
|Died||March 29, 2017 (aged 73)|
|Coaching career (HC unless noted)|
|1977–1979||Farragut HS (TN)|
|Head coaching record|
29–5 (high school)
|Tournaments||19–5 (NAIA D-I playoffs)|
19–15 (NCAA D-II playoffs)
|Accomplishments and honors|
|5 NAIA Division I (1983–1984, 1986, 1988–1989)|
21 SAC (1982–1984, 1986, 1988–1991, 1993–1999, 2002–2004, 2007–2009)
|NAIA Division I Coach of the Year (1984)|
Sparks was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. He played college football as a wide receiver at Carson–Newman and graduated from the school in 1968. He was football coach at Gibbs High School in Knoxville. The next year, he received a master's degree from Tennessee Technological University where he also coached quarterbacks and receivers. He coached at Morristown East High School in Morristown, Tennessee.
In the early 1970s, Sparks was an assistant coach on the Carson–Newman football team that was a runner up in the NAIA championship game. He coached the school's track team and he was named Southern Collegiate Track Coach of the Year. In 1977, he returned to Carson-Newman where he coached the track team.
Following his string of successes, Carson-Newman built the new Burke–Tarr Stadium in 2005.
Sparks, who was once Fellowship of Christian Athletes National Coach of the Year, actively pursues a Christian aspect in his coaching and is a popular public speaker. He was quoted as saying that, if football can be used as a tool to bring people to the Lord, then "it has done something. If it hasn't, we haven't done a thing, no matter how many games we won."
After 37 years as the head coach at Carson-Newman University, Ken Sparks announced his retirement on November 14, 2016 at a press conference in the Ken Sparks Athletic Complex on the campus of Carson-Newman University.
Sparks died March 29, 2017 after a four-year battle with prostate cancer.
Head coaching recordEdit
|Carson–Newman Eagles (South Atlantic Conference) (1980–2016)|
|1982||Carson–Newman||10–2||6–1||1st||L NAIA Division I Quarterfinal|
|1983||Carson–Newman||10–3||6–1||1st||W NAIA Division I Championship|
|1984||Carson–Newman||10–2–1||6–1||1st||T NAIA Division I Championship|
|1986||Carson–Newman||12–1||6–1||1st||W NAIA Division I Championship|
|1987||Carson–Newman||10–4||4–3||T–3rd||L NAIA Division I Championship|
|1988||Carson–Newman||12–2||5–2||T–1st||W NAIA Division I Championship|
|1989||Carson–Newman||12–1||6–1||1st||W NAIA Division I Championship|
|1990||Carson–Newman||11–1||7–0||1st||L NAIA Division I Semifinal|
|1991||Carson–Newman||10–1||7–0||1st||L NAIA Division I Quarterfinal|
|1992||Carson–Newman||8–3||6–1||2nd||L NAIA Division I Quarterfinal|
|1993||Carson–Newman||8–2–1||6–1||1st||L NCAA Division II First Round|
|1994||Carson–Newman||8–3||6–1||T–1st||L NCAA Division II First Round|
|1995||Carson–Newman||9–3||6–1||1st||L NCAA Division II Quarterfinal|
|1996||Carson–Newman||12–2||6–1||1st||L NCAA Division II Championship|
|1997||Carson–Newman||11–1||7–0||1st||L NCAA Division II Semifinal|
|1998||Carson–Newman||12–2||7–0||1st||L NCAA Division II Championship|
|1999||Carson–Newman||13–1||8–0||1st||L NCAA Division II Championship|
|2002||Carson–Newman||12–1||7–0||1st||L NCAA Division II Quarterfinal|
|2003||Carson–Newman||11–2||6–1||1st||L NCAA Division II Quarterfinal|
|2004||Carson–Newman||9–3||6–1||1st||L NCAA Division II Second Round|
|2008||Carson–Newman||7–4||5–2||T–1st||L NCAA Division II First Round|
|2009||Carson–Newman||11–3||7–0||1st||L NCAA Division II Semifinal|
|2012||Carson–Newman||9–3||5–2||2nd||L NCAA Division II Quarterfinal|
|2013||Carson–Newman||10–3||5–2||2nd||L NCAA Division II Second Round|
|2015||Carson–Newman||9–3||5–2||T–2nd||L NCAA Division II First Round|
|National championship Conference title Conference division title or championship game berth|