Longtime Carson-Newman head coach Ken Sparks announced Monday he is retiring from football. The 73-year-old Sparks had spent the past 37 years as the head coach at the Jefferson City, Tenn., school, leading the Eagles to five NAIA national championships and three Division II runner-up finishes.
Sparks walks away with 338 wins against 99 losses and two ties. His 338 wins are the fifth-most in college football history, and his .7699 winning percentage is the fourth-best in the history of the sport.
"This is a day that none of us looked forward to as Carson-Newman football fans and supporters, but it's a day we honor and a day we rejoice in," Carson-Newman AD Allen Morgan said in a statement. "It's a day we honor Ken and the legacy he is leaving for how he has touched young men's lives in a way far greater than wins on a football field.
"He has molded boys to become Christian young men, husbands and community leaders where they too can give back. So today, it's Ken Sparks' day. The entire Carson-Newman community gives thanks for what he has done not only for Carson-Newman but for the greater good of mankind."
The owner of 21 South Atlantic Conference titles, Sparks's teams reached the NAIA or NCAA playoffs 25 times. He was inducted into the NCAA Division II Hall of Fame in 2010.
Sparks has battled cancer in recent years, stepping away to receive treatment last week, and coached part of Saturday's rivalry game with Tusculum coaching from a stool on the sideline.
In the end, it was just time.
"It's been an unbelievable journey," Sparks told the Greenville Sun. "There have been some unbelievable teaching times. The Lord is so good."
"This is not my day. It's the Lord's day. I don't want to cause attention to myself. The support I have received over the years at Carson-Newman is amazing. I am forever thankful."
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