JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Carson-Newman Director of Athletics Allen Morgan introduced offensive coordinator and 1973 alumnus Mike Turner as the football program’s 18th head coach during a press conference Tuesday afternoon in the Ken Sparks Athletic Complex.
The announcement comes 24 hours after 37-year head coach Ken Sparks announced his retirement.
“In football we speak of the importance of good handoffs,” Carson-Newman President Dr. Randall O’Brien said. “No fumbles! When replacing a 37-year coaching legend, how important is the handoff? In naming Coach Mike Turner Head Football Coach we’re handing the ball to a 33-year veteran of Coach Spark’s coaching staff, the team’s record-setting offensive coordinator, and a man of unquestioned character, competence, commitment, and Christlikeness.”
Turner is the architect of one of the most potent offenses in college football.
Over the last nine seasons, Turner has led the Eagles to an unprecedented run at the top of the NCAA offensive rankings.
Since 2007, the Carson-Newman offense has averaged 330.6 yards rushing per game and scored an average of 38.4 points. Over those nine seasons, Carson-Newman has produced an All-American offensive lineman seven times. The Eagles have also been lauded with the Rimington Award winner, which goes to the best center in all Division II, twice.
“It will be no easy task to follow the legacy of Ken Sparks,” Morgan said. “However, in my opinion, if anyone can, it’s Mike Turner. Mike has the same core values of Christian leadership, devotion in making a difference in young men’s lives and the desire to strive for excellence. These core values will continue under Mike’s leadership.
“In addition, Mike has proven that he is a motivator of young men, who will set the highest of standards through character development, pursuit of academic excellence and is certainly a proven winner on the football field. Therefore, I feel this program won’t miss a beat and continue to be the exemplary program that we’ve had here over the last four decades.”
Carson-Newman has collectively rushed for enough yards to power C-N more than 20 miles over the last decade. The amount of yardage gained on the ground with Turner calling plays would propel the Eagles down I-40 well past Smokies Stadium.
A 1973 graduate of C-N, Turner was a standout center for the Eagles and key member of the 1972 NAIA Champion Bowl runner-up team, the first Carson-Newman squad to reach a national title game.
Turner got a chance to win those national titles when he returned to Carson-Newman, after stints as an assistant coach at Randleman (N.C.) High School, Lees-McRae College and Catawba College. Turner coached the offensive line at C-N from 1980-1984, helping the Eagles win two NAIA National Championships.
In 1985-86, Turner served as offensive coordinator for the University of North Alabama, guiding the offense that finished as the NCAA Division II runner-up in 1985.
Turner returned to the Eagles as offensive coordinator in 1987, helping spark another run of championships. Turner left C-N for a second time to take over the football program at Science Hill High School in 1992.
Returning to Carson-Newman in 1994 as the chief fundraiser for the Eagle Club, Turner once again took command of the Eagles offense in 1995.
Turner was named the AFCA Division II Assistant Coach of the Year in 2003.
Turner’s 2007 Eagles offense was the first team in SAC history to average 49 points per conference game. His 2004 offense boasted three All-Americans; offensive linemen Caleb Crothers and Reggie Perkins as well as former Philadelphia Eagles fullback Leonard Weaver.
The Eagles led NCAA Division II in rushing offense in 2009, gaining 336.7 yards per game and were the No. 8-ranked total offense with 471.9 yards per game. C-N was eighth in scoring offense (33.36 points per game) and set a single-game total offense record with 803 yards in a 70-35 victory over Tusculum College, including a school-record 671 yards on the ground.
The 2015 season was tied with the 2007 team for the most 50-point games in a single year, while the trio of 60-point efforts marked the first time in school history that had ever occurred. Derek Evans earned All-American honors on the offensive line en route to attaining the Rimington Trophy. Damian Baker became a consensus All-American while becoming the program’s fourth Harlon Hill Trophy finalist and its second consecutive.
The 2014 season saw Carson-Newman chew up more than 350 yards on the ground a game. Turner tutored guard Robby Ignagni to All-America honors while running back Andy Hibbett became the program’s third Harlon Hill Trophy finalist. Carson-Newman ranked in the top five in the nation in rushing yards per game for a seventh consecutive year.
In 2013, Turner’s offense took a turn toward the air. Quarterback De’Andre Thomas set single season records Sparks-era records for passing completions and completion percentage while the veer-option attack continued to churn up yards on the ground in a hurry to the tune of 350 yards per game. It was the sixth consecutive year the Eagles’ rushing game ranked in the top five nationally.
The 2012 season turned out to be the best of the bunch for the Eagles’ ground game. C-N averaged 378.6 yards a contest and scored 52 rushing touchdowns. The yards a game led Division II and were more than any other school in all divisions save the Football Championship Subdivision’s Georgia Southern Eagles. No one in collegiate football at any level had more rushing touchdowns than the Eagles 52.
Turner saw great individual success among his players in 2012. Senior center Kevin Day took home the SAC’s Jacobs Blocking Award and became the Eagles’ seventh consensus all-American. Quarterback Brandon Haywood was first team all-league and the co-offensive player of the year. Running back Brandon Baker took home all-region and all-America honors after leading the league in rushing with 122.3 yards/game.
He and his wife, Conni, reside in Jefferson City, Tenn. They have two children; Jenni and Josh.