The football programs at Carson-Newman University and the University of Alabama have next to nothing in common beyond playing the same sport.
Carson-Newman, a Division II school in Johnson City, Tenn., stormed back from a 35-27 halftime deficit to defeat Tusculum College 55-35 on Saturday, giving head coach Ken Sparks his 323rd all-time win. The victory moves Sparks – now 323-87-2 at Carson-Newman, a job he’s held continuously since 1980 – into a tie for sixth-place on the all-time victories chart with legendary Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, who went 323-85-17 from 1945 to 1982.
“I told (my players) if anybody wanted to talk about the number of victories that I had, you tell them that I didn’t play a play,” Sparks told the Associated Press.
Sparks, 70, is now within striking distance of the top five, trailing legendary Mount Union coach Larry Kehres by just 10 victories. Saint John’s head coach John Gagliardi holds the all-time wins record at 489, followed by Grambling’s Eddie Robinson (408), Howard, West Virginia and Florida State coach Bobby Bowden (377), pre-modern era titan Glenn “Pop” Warner (336) and Kehres (332).
Sparks was diagnosed with prostate cancer over the summer of 2012, and earned his 300th career victory in his first game after the diagnosis.