GREENEVILLE, Tenn. — Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks chased Bear — and caught him.
Sparks earned his 323rd victory Saturday to tie Paul “Bear” Bryant for sixth place on the NCAA’s career victories list as the Eagles won 55-35 against Tusculum.
Sparks, in his 35th season at Carson-Newman, improved his career record to 323-87-2. Bryant went 323-85-17 for Maryland, Kentucky, Texas A&M and Alabama from 1945-82.
The 70-year-old Sparks downplayed the milestone after the game and credited his players.
“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 said.
Carson-Newman (5-1) trailed Tusculum (2-5) 35-27 at halftime before outscoring the Pioneers 28-0 in the second half.
The top five coaches in career victories are John Gagliardi (489-138-11), Eddie Robinson (408-165-15), Bobby Bowden (377-129-4), Pop Warner (336-114-32) and Larry Kehres (332-24-3). Sparks has the most wins of any active coach.
Sparks learned he had prostate cancer in the summer of 2012. He earned his 300th victory in the first game after his diagnosis.