Ken Sparks, Among Most-Winning College Football Coaches, Dies at 73


Coach Ken Sparks in 2013. He spent his entire 37-year career as a college head coach at Carson-Newman.

Adam Greene/Carson-Newman University, via Associated Press

Ken Sparks, a college football coach whose 338 victories for Division II Carson-Newman rank fifth on the N.C.A.A.’s all-time list, died on Wednesday at his home in Knoxville, Tenn. He was 73.

His death was announced by Adam Cavalier, a spokesman for the Carson-Newman University athletic department. Sparks announced in 2012 that he had prostate cancer but continued coaching for five more seasons.

Sparks spent his entire 37-year college head coaching career at Carson-Newman, a historically Baptist university in Jefferson City, in eastern Tennessee. He went 338-99-2 before retiring in November.

The only college coaches with more career wins than Sparks are John Gagliardi (489), Joe Paterno (409), Eddie Robinson (408) and Bobby Bowden (377).

Before Carson-Newman entered the N.C.A.A. ranks in 1993, Sparks led the Eagles to National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championships in 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988 and 1989. Carson-Newman was an N.A.I.A. runner-up in 1987; lost in the N.C.A.A. Division II championship game in 1996, 1998 and 1999; and reached the Division II semifinals in 2009.

Sparks was inducted into the inaugural N.C.A.A. Division II Hall of Fame coaches class in 2010. He is also in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the N.A.I.A. Hall of Fame.

A native of Knoxville, Sparks began his coaching career there at Gibbs High School.

He is survived by his wife, Carol; a son, Chad; a daughter, Chandra Childress; a stepson, Tim Bobo; a stepdaughter, Kim Hines; and 14 grandchildren.

On announcing his retirement, Sparks spoke of his coaching career as an extension of his faith. “The Lord has put us in a position where we’ve been able to have an…

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