In what turned out to be a classic shootout in Greenville, Tennessee, Carson-Newman beat Tusculum 55-35 on Saturday. The Eagles’ win was the 323rd in the career of legendary coach Ken Sparks, bringing him even with legendary Alabama, Texas A&M, and Kentucky coach Paul “Bear” Bryant for sixth on the NCAA’s all-time win list.
Meanwhile, almost nine hundred miles to the northwest in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Lance Leipold was adding to his still-young legend. UW-Whitewater’s 52-3 win over UW-Eau Claire was Leipold’s 100th win as head coach — in just 106 games, making him the fastest NCAA head football coach ever to reach the century mark. The previous record was held by Cornell coach Gil Dobie, who reached the 100-win plateau in 108 games in 1921.
Both coaches reached their impressive milestones within minutes of one another on Saturday.
Sparks’ record speaks to longevity — to sustained success. At 70 years old, in his 35th season as head coach of the Eagles, Saturday’s win improved his overall head coaching record to 323-87-2. He’s guided the program to five NAIA titles and 24 total playoff appearances in his impressive career. Sparks picked up his 300th victory not long after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2012.
“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 following Saturday’s win.
His team currently sits at BR-15 in D2 poll, with a Heat Score of 92.
As for Leipold, he’s still early in his career as a head coach, but after just seven seasons he would be a legend if he retired tomorrow. In his seven seasons, the 50-year-old has led UW-Whitewater to five D3 titles in his seven seasons. The Warhawks have now won 23-straight games, the second-longest streak in the NCAA — in any division.
Leipold and the Warhawks moved up to the top spot in this week’s D3 Football HeroSports. UW-Whitewater also boasts a Heat Score of 92.
“It’s something that will sink in probably further down the road,” said Leipold of his milestone. “I’m very fortunate for the opportunity to be the head coach at UW-Whitewater. We have players that have played hard and bought into the philosophy, and we have a great group of assistant coaches we’ve been able to retain. They’ve done an outstanding job.”
The Warhawks and Eagles sit atop their respective conferences — Whitewater in a three-way tie with UW-Platteville and UW-Oshkosh for the lead in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic conference and Carson-Newman tied with Lenoir-Rhyne for first in the South Atlantic Conference. Both schools will play against their fellow conference-leaders at some point this season.
The greatness of these two coaches transcends division. The successes they’ve found in their chosen field is incredible no matter how you look at it. Here’s how impressive these two coaches’ careers have been: if Leipold maintains his .943 career winning percentage, he will catch Sparks (and Bryant) for sixth on the all-time NCAA wins list in the first game of the 2032 season. As far off as that seems, it would mean Leipold reached 323 wins in his 25th season — ten years faster than Sparks.
It’s hard to say which coach this stat favors, but it doesn’t really matter. These two are, and will be, legends no matter what way you look at it.