JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – In a press conference at the Ken Sparks Athletic Conference on Tuesday afternoon, Mike Turner was introduced as the new head football coach at Carson-Newman University.
The following is a written transcript of the press conference.
Allen Morgan opening remarks: Thank you all for being here. We're excited about this day. We're excited about yesterday. Yesterday was Ken Sparks' day and I hope we honored him in a way that he deserved. Ken was the 17th football coach at Carson-Newman and obviously his record is exemplary, but I am so excited today to get to introduce to you the 18th head football coach at Carson-Newman University: coach Mike Turner. Coach Turner, come on up here.
Morgan: As I told this group yesterday and as I've shared with our coaches and as I've shared with our athletes, there were three things we were looking for in a coach. No. 1: a gentleman with high character and a gentleman that was Christ-like. That is the first thing we looked for. The No. 2 thing we looked for is a football coach that was a great leader of young men, who would set high expectations, who would continue the legacy that other coaches that have preceded him have left at Carson-Newman and we expect great character from these young men. We expect them to do well in the classroom. Thirdly, I told you we were looking for a great football coach and I don't think anyone can question Mike Turner is all three of those. Was it an easy decision? As I told you, it was easy for me because my prayer was: God, I want you to put whoever your next man is to lead this football program in front of me and make sure I have the ears to hear, the eyes to see and that I will follow your lead. I'm truly convinced that its God's will for this time at Carson-Newman that our 18th head football coach is Mike Turner and I'm excited to introduce him to you today and let's give Mike another round of applause.
Turner opening remarks: Wow. Alright. I'm excited. I'm humbled. I'm honored, but I am oh so enthusiastic about this opportunity. I think one of the verses I try to read every day is Micah 6:8 because its simple for a football coach. This is Jesus speaking: "He has told you men what is good and what the Lord requires of you. Only to act justly, to love faithless and to walk humbly with your God." That ought to be simple enough for even me to follow. Hopefully and prayerfully, I will try to do that. This program will never change in many ways. It will always be a Christ-driven program. It will always be a program that works to glorify God in all that it does. It will always be program that every day, every coach is going to work hard to be a positive influence on the young men that we deal with. That part will never change. That's a legacy that coach Ken Sparks has left us and that's a legacy that we'll continue to live by while we're here right now. It is an opportunity. It reminds me of old saying: be careful what you wish for because we just might get it. Here it is. There was a time where I thought, maybe it's time to retire, take care of my granddaughter, but every day in this building and on this campus, I would remind young people that never wake up one day and utter the worst words a man could ever say and that is: I wished I had. I thank the Lord for this opportunity. I thank Allen Morgan and Dr. O'Brien for trusting me to carry on a tradition that is awesome. It's unbelievable what's happened in this program in the last few years. I've been very fortunate to be around some legends that have coached and played at Carson-Newman University. [I] had an opportunity to play for coach Dal Shealy. That's enough right there. What he has done for football, what he has done for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, what he's done for the coaching profession is awesome. I got to be around coach Ron Case that ended up being a coach here at Carson-Newman and coach Case recruited many, many, many of the players that when we came here in 1980 to start with coach Sparks, they were on campus. Then, to be around coach Sparks, for 33 years. I've coached with him for 33 years and I've played for two years here. I was a junior college transfer. I have been blessed many times over. You look at the name on that stadium out here, coach Harmon, when I was a player here at Carson-Newman, one of my best friends was him son, Ralph. His mom used to feed us in the summer to get us by. It was every man for himself and thank God she took care of us. I talked to our players about knowing it's time to roll up our sleeves and go to work. Let's go to work in the classroom, let's go to work on this campus, let's go to work in study hall, let's go to work in the weight room and see what can happen. I also talked to them about three things. Part of this came from Lou Holtz and coach Redding reminded me of that his morning. No. 1, I'm committed to excellence. It takes just a little bit more to go from good to great, so we talked to our players that, if it just takes a little bit more, then roll up your sleeves and let's go to work. I told our players they could trust me. I'm going to do the best I can to do exactly what I say, so I have to be careful what I say, but I'm going to do the best I can to do exactly what I say I'm going to do. Committed to excellence, players can trust you and I told my players that goes both ways. As a coach, I've got to be able to trust them that they're going to do and put in the effort it takes to be successful here. The third thing I told them is I care about every one of them in this room, regardless. It doesn't matter where they are on the depth chart. It doesn't matter where they are, offense, defense or kicking. I told them that I loved them and I loved them for what it cost them to be a football player at Carson-Newman. The effort, the time, it can be daunting sometimes what they have to do to be a part of this football team. They're here and they're a part of it and we want to make it better, make it better for them, make it better for people on campus that are here and a part of it. That's our challenge. As a head coach and that's our challenge as a coaching staff and that's our challenge as a team, but I'm ready to make it happen.
Q1: It's one thing to replace your best friend, it's another to replace a legend. How do you do that?
Turner: You don't. There's no way. Ken Sparks is Ken Sparks. Anybody who took this job and thought they were going to replace Ken Sparks isn't very bright. You don't replace him. I'm Mike Turner and I'm going to do the best I can every day and I'm going to trust in how God is leading me to do that. That's what I promised our players. I'm not going to try to be somebody else. I'm going to be me and we're going to roll up our sleeves and go to work. You can't replace that and all you do it celebrate that. You're just grateful that you're a part of it and celebrate it.
Q2: One of the jobs of a new head coach is to recruit his own players. I imagine your job is going to be a little easier in that regard.
Turner: Absolutely. We talked this morning as a coaching staff and there are two priorities right now. The No. 1 priority is take care of these kids we've got right here on campus. [Things like] GPA, grades, that's the urgency right now, getting ready for exams in just a few weeks. The second priority, which is right there with it is make sure we are on the road recruiting, that we're organized, that we're centralized and we're ready to make a difference.
Q2: I would imagine that plenty of other head coaching opportunities have been opened up to you. You didn't take them, except for the Science Hill [job] for a little while. What made you decide to stay here this long.
Turner: No. 1, I think this is where God wanted me to be. My wife and I felt like this was a great place to raise our children and this felt like home. I've lived over half my life in Jefferson City. I'm just country boy from Randleman, North Carolina. That's a long way away. This is home. I've left a couple times. I told coach Sparks yesterday I always thought he was a smart guy, but he hired me three times. This is home. I grew up as a young coach and I'd go to conventions and I'd see these guys with a ring on their finger and I'd say "I want me one of them." We won our first national championship in Colorado. You fly back on the plane, you got off the plane, I went to bed, I got up and went to church, we came over here and had a picture made and then I was on the road to Macon, Ga. recruiting. I stopped at a Waffle House and got some coffee and the wind was blowing and the wind was blowing and went "That didn't last long." There's what you think are priorities, where do you think is best for you grow at and that's what Carson-Newman is going to be.
Q3: You have a big job tomorrow. You have to find an offensive coordinator to replace Mike Turner. Talk about that.
Turner: Well, this just got finalized last night. I haven't sat in and made a folder of what I have to do because it scares me. We talked this morning with our coaches. The No. 1 thing is take care of our players we got right here and get the grades done and then start recruiting, but those issues, we're going to sit down as a staff and come up with the best answers.
Q4: What kind of players are you looking to bring in?
Turner: We want to bring in better players than we got. That should be anybody's idea of what you bring in. We want to bring in people that fit the Carson-Newman mold as best we can and we talked this morning about researching and finding that. Every program has got immediate needs and then you got needs that you have to plan on two years down the road and one year down the road. When you set up recruiting and that's what we're meeting tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. about. Is this what our needs are right now? The short term needs and then where you can come in and bring them for two years.
Q5: How much of a dream is this?
Turner: This is a dream job. When I first got to Carson-Newman, I felt very, very blessed. To be able to sit up here and stand in front of the football team and be the head coach. You're going man this is a dream job and you're blessed and you're going "Wow." What has to get done and how it has to get done and what you represent. It's not about all the things. It's the people all over the world that this football program means something to. There are people and the people are from all over the world. They know about Carson-Newman football and the tradition and they want to see it in good hands.
Q6: There are some coaches that would rather be coordinators instead of the head coach because the head coach has so much to deal with. What do you think that you've learned from Ken Sparks about what is takes to be the head coach?
Turner: I was very fortunate to work for a guy like him that would say, "Hey, go do this." That's how you grow. Coaches want to coach and he's always been a guy that wanted to have coaches grow up as they came along to be able to do this level or that level or the next position and move along right there. I know that coach Clowney and I and coach Slade have all been with him as coordinators. He treats the coordinators just like they were the head coach. There's never really been a whole lot of difference and he always told us that the buck stops somewhere and that's where it was. I think that when you've been in that position with a guy like him, you've got a lot of things to fall back on, ideas, you've got a lot of history to learn from and that part has been special.
Q7: How did you handle the search process?
Turner: Somewhere in here, I've got to find a sleeping pill this afternoon. I just thank Mr. Morgan and Dr. O'Brien for not going on with this, whoever, whatever it's going to be. These kids went through a traumatic day yesterday. All of us did, me too. My question to him yesterday was "Are you sure?" We know that happened. I think the best way to continue going forward is to go do it and let's get on with it and know that there won't be a day around this place that Ken Sparks won't be a part of it.