Sparky Woods, VMI Head Football Coach

Sparky Woods - Football“Our successful football recruiting and retention efforts have increased our need for scholarship dollars to its highest in history. Keydet Football cannot win without this foundational support. The Keydet Club has been striving not only to meet this challenge, but also to increase the amount of out-of-state awards the Institute can make. 

Our players have already demonstrated the value of this critical investment in the classroom and in the weight room, and they are committed to also doing so on the field very soon! 

We thank the Keydet Club for their efforts to help our program reach this level.”

Sparky Woods, Head Football Coach


Sparky Woods enters his fourth season as head coach of the VMI football program, and continues to institute sweeping change throughout the program. 

No stranger to building successful programs, Woods brings a wealth of football coaching experience at the highest level to the Keydets.  His outlook and approach to the game mesh perfectly with the Institute's mission of producing outstanding individuals in society. Nowhere is this more evident than in the retention rate of recruits since Wood arrived on Post four years ago. 

Woods became the 30th head football coach in the Institute's 117-year history on February 12, 2008, bringing 10 years of head coaching experience at both the FBS (I-A) level and FCS (I-AA) level, including four years at South Carolina and five seasons at Appalachian State.

"I was very optimistic when we hired Sparky Woods because he had been successful as a head college football coach,” said VMI Athletic Director Donny White.  “I am even more optimistic now that I have seen him work at VMI.  First of all, he has great character and he is a good fit here.  I am impressed not only with his football experiences and knowledge of the game, but for his attention to detail, practice and game management, as well as his strong leadership."

Woods, 56, returned to the FCS (I-AA) ranks where he produced a successful run as head coach of Appalachian State for five seasons from 1984 through 1988. Woods guided the Mountaineers to a 38-19-2 mark and two Southern Conference titles (1986, 1987) and two I-AA playoff appearances. Over the two-year span in '86-'87, Appalachian State posted a perfect 13-0 conference mark.

The Southern Conference tabbed Woods as Coach of the Year for three consecutive years (1985-87) and he was also named Kodak Region II Coach of the Year in 1986. As a head coach overall, Woods holds a 67-53-5 mark.

Prior to accepting the VMI position, Woods served as running backs coach at Alabama from 2003 through 2006. While in Tuscaloosa, Woods coached Tide running back Kenneth Darby to two consecutive 1,000 yard seasons and also mentored Shaud Williams, who led the SEC in rushing yardage in 2003 and was a semifinalist for the Doak Walker award. The Tide also led the SEC in rushing for three consecutive seasons (2003, 2004, 2005).

Woods was also head coach at South Carolina from 1989-93, and later served as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Memphis (1995-96), Virginia (1997-98), and Mississippi State (1999-02). At Virginia, Woods tutored NFL QB Aaron Brooks, who finished as the school's third all-time leading passer (5,118 yds.) and second all-time leader in passing TD's (33). While at MSU, Woods coached MSU's all-time passing leader, Wayne Madkin, and help establish record-setting offenses for the Bulldogs.

As an assistant coach, Woods participated in five bowl games; the 2006 Cotton Bowl, 2004 Music City Bowl, 2000 Independence Bowl, 1999 Peach Bowl, and 1998 Peach Bowl. In 1994, Woods served as an offensive assistant for the New York Jets.

Woods is a 1976 graduate of Carson-Newman and began his coaching career at Tennessee later that year. In 1977, he moved to Kansas before serving one year as defensive backs coach at North Alabama in 1978. From 1979-82 he coached at Iowa State, handling the receivers, before joining Appalachian State in 1983 as offensive coordinator, quarterbacks, and running backs coach under Mack Brown. One year later, Woods was named head coach at Appalachian State.

Woods and his wife, Jean Ann, reside in Lexington and have two children, a son, Casey (28) who is on the football coaching staff at Auburn, and a daughter, Emily (23) who graduated from the University of Alabama and is pursuing graduate studies.