VIDEO: Ken Sparks Way ceremony
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn.—With a crowd that stretched the greater portion of the formerly known College Street, the Jefferson City City Council officially renamed the path Ken Sparks Way in honor of former Carson-Newman football coach Ken Sparks Tuesday afternoon on the steps of Stokely Memorial Cafeteria.
The street that runs right through the heart of campus from the intramural fields on the west side to where it intersects Branner Avenue on the east side and all the way in front of Stokely Memorial Cafeteria right before it ends at the entrance of the Maddox Student Activity Center will now don the name of the fifth-winningest football coach in NCAA history.
Jefferson City's City Council, represented by Mayor Mark Potts, Vice-Mayor Mitch Cain, Councilmen Rocky Melton and Kevin Bunch as well as Councilwoman Eileen Combs, made the change final during the resolution's second reading during its meeting on Feb. 6.
Though the name change has been a permanent fixture for the street for the past seven days, the releasing of the name change was made official with a ceremony Tuesday afternoon with hundreds of former and current student-athletes, coaches, C-N faculty and residents of Jefferson City.
"What Ken wants said more than anything else here today is that Jesus Christ is Lord," Carson-Newman President Randall O'Brien said during the ceremony. "When we all discussed what we wanted the name of this street to read that honors Ken, several names were thrown around. In the end, the name was decided on Ken Sparks Way and I love that because you built your football program the way Jesus Christ would have wanted you to.
"The Ken Sparks way is to put Jesus Christ first. I believe that speaks more for you and of anything else we could have settled on. That is going to be the name of this street and we are so excited about that."
Following remarks made by the President of the University, Jefferson City's Mayor, Mark Potts, took the microphone to say a few words on behalf of the council.
"This street runs through the heart of Jefferson City and through the heart of Carson-Newman," Potts said. "The thing that keeps each and every one of us alive is the heart and I am just so glad to know that Ken Sparks Way will be in the heart of Jefferson City. As Jefferson City is a part of the Carson-Newman family, we want to honor you with this.
"Everyone immediately decided that this was a great idea to name this street Ken Sparks Way. We just want to say thank you and that we appreciate everything you have done for this campus and our community."
C-N Athletic Director Allen Morgan also took the time to say a few words on the behalf of the Jefferson City residents to thank and honor Sparks once again for the impact he has made in the lives of so many throughout his 37-year tenure as the Eagle football coach.
"If I know you as well as I think I know you, I think you would have preferred this name to be Christ Way," Morgan said. "That is indeed what it is. It's Christ Way—Ken Sparks Way. Coach exemplifies what Christ wants us to be each and every day. Every time I and the rest of the Jefferson City residents drive through this road and we see Ken Sparks Way, we know that it's Christ's Way."
When the time finally came for Sparks to say a few works, the former coach closed the ceremony by challenging the audience, much like he did for nearly four decades with his teams on the gridiron. With the street that now bears his name, Sparks urged the crowd to live in a way that Christ would smile on.
"You know I'm going to make a request and I want you to honor this request," Sparks said. "When you walk up and down this street or go in the buildings along this street, I want us to do one thing. We need to honor the God who has all the answers we are looking for. I want us to honor the God who has got everything we need in life.
"Wouldn't it be something that when we are walking up and down this street, if God would say 'I'm getting lifted up.' That is the thing that I request out of you—that we lift the Almighty up."
Sparks announced his retirement on Nov. 14 as he finished his Carson-Newman career after 37 seasons, 338 wins, 99 losses and two ties with a career winning percentage of .7699 that is the fourth-highest in college football history while the 338 victories amount to the fifth-best total nationally.
The Eagles won five NAIA National Titles and played for it six times under the coach. A move to NCAA Division II saw the Eagles play for the D-II National Title three times with a semifinalist season in 2009.
Sparks has recorded 21 South Atlantic Conference Championships, 25 NCAA or NAIA playoff appearances and was inducted into the inaugural NCAA Division II Hall of Fame Coaches Class in 2010 along with Northwest Missouri State's Mel Tjeerdsma and West Alabama's Bobby Wallace.
The lifelong Eagle is also a member of the South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame, the Knoxville Sports Hall of Fame, the Carson-Newman Athletic Hall of Fame, the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and the NAIA Hall of Fame.
Throughout his life, Sparks has been honored with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Lifetime Achievement Award and National Coach of the Year. In 2002, Sparks received the All-American Football Foundation's Johnny Vaught Lifetime Achievement Award.
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Sparks was surrounded by family, coaches and the Jefferson City City Council as the honoree cut the opening-ribbon on what hence forth will be known as the Ken Sparks Way.