Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame 2004 Inductee Ken Sparks passed away this this morning at the age of 73. Sparks recently retired as the head football coach at Carson-Newman. The Knoxville born Sparks led the Carson-Newman football program for 37 years. Coach Sparks retired on November 14, 2016. He finished his career at Carson-Newman completing 37 seasons, 338 wins, 99 losses, and two ties.
Under his guidance, the Eagles won five NAIA National Titles and played for it six times. The team played for the D-II National Title three times and were a semifinalist in 2009. Sparks recorded 21 South Atlantic Conference Championships and 25 NCAA or NAIA playoff appearances.
Along with being an inductee of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame he was a member of the NCAA Division II Hall of Fame Coaches Class, South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame, the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, the Carson-Newman Athletic Hall of Fame, and the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Sparks was known for pointing out his relationship with Jesus Christ as what got him through his days. “I made a deal with the Lord, if we are allowed to make deals with him,” Sparks said in a 2016 interview. “My deal was that I would live every day to the fullest and honor him with everything I do.”
He was considered to be one of college football’s all-time greatest coaches. He started at Gibbs High School in 1968 with his philosophy of, “It’s never about wins on the field, but the victories of the soul.”
He had a career winning percentage of .7699, the fourth highest in college football history while the 338 victories are the fifth best nationally.