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Danny Sprinkle's family name is written in UW — and Seattle — history

DerekJohnsonDerekJohnson Administrator, Swaye's Wigwam Posts: 59,847
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They sat in the son’s home to watch the father’s alma mater, just the two of
them, a memory Bill Sprinkle will cherish forever, even if a national
championship eluded his Washington Huskies that night. He played there
in the 1960s. Years later, he would drive his son, Danny, the middle of
his three children, from their home in Helena, Mont., to one game each
season at Husky Stadium. 

Even after so many decades and multiple renovations, Bill, now 77, feels the
hair on the back of his neck stand up when he walks in.

“It’s kind of a primeval-type visit when I go there,” he said. “You look at
the past and see all the buried souls, if you will, that are in your
memory.”

Though Danny never lived in Seattle or attended the school, he grew up rooting
for the Huskies, wearing purple and hanging UW posters on his walls.
“He was all-consumed by it,” Bill says. And so he wouldn’t have missed
Michael Penix Jr. and Rome Odunze taking on Michigan for a national
title, even if, as they watched the television together in the basement
of Danny’s home in Logan, Utah, father and son never broached the
subject of Danny some day coaching the UW men’s basketball team.

Instead, it was an evening meant for indulging in their shared pastime, however prescient that scene might feel today.

“We didn’t really talk about the future at all,” Bill said. “Just talked
about the present, and how lucky we were to be doing what we’re doing.
It was just that kind of night — sit around and BS. He was happy about
doing that with his dad. That was a good night.”

Not three months later, Bill and his wife, Danette, accompanied Danny on a
private jet ride to Seattle, where the parents sat in the front row with
their oldest daughter, Erin, a Seattle resident, to watch Danny be
introduced as the Huskies’ new coach. 

He grew up in Montana, then played and eventually coached at Montana
State. He takes pride in representing that state wherever he goes.

Given his father’s history, Danny considers the UW job something of a
homecoming, too. He admits that he left more than one Montana State or
Utah State football game early so he could watch the Huskies.

“Probably as close as you could possibly get to your alma mater,” he said.

The Sprinkle name already is written in Seattle history, if you know where
to look. One of Bill’s uncles, Dick Sprinkle, similarly lettered as a
football player at UW from 1948-50 — overlapping with the great Hugh
McElhenny — but is more widely remembered for his career as the original
valet at Canlis restaurant. Dick Sprinkle became a Seattle dining icon
by matching cars to their owners, strictly by memory, for some four
decades. MSNBC once described him as a “valet-parking savant” whose photographic memory allowed the restaurant to operate without handing out tickets.

Another of Bill’s uncles, Don Sprinkle, was elected King County Sheriff before
he died from a heart attack, at age 47, in 1963. As a hobby, Don also
coached the semi-pro Seattle Ramblers football team — originally the
Rainier Beach Athletic Club Ramblers — for 15 seasons. Dick even played
for him after college. Don had attended Queen Anne High School and
received a football scholarship to Oregon in 1935, but left after his
freshman year to move home and help his family. A book titled “Take a Lap,” published in 1989, chronicles his time coaching the Ramblers, who at the time were the closest thing Seattle had to a pro football team.

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Bill was born in Seattle, too. He settled in Montana, where he became a
three-sport star at Great Falls Central High School, and was eventually
inducted into the state’s high-school athletics Hall of Fame. 

Still, he says, when it came to choosing a college, “I was kind of a Seattle
guy. It was fun for me to go there. That was kind of my first pick.”

He even turned down Notre Dame and legendary coach Ara Parseghian. Bill
visited South Bend as a high-schooler, but was told the Irish didn’t
have a scholarship available for him. Maybe six weeks later, an
assistant called and said there was an open scholarship, after all, but
Bill told him that he planned to attend Washington, which had played in
three Rose Bowls under coach Jim Owens in the five seasons prior to his
enrollment, including a 17-7 loss to Illinois his senior year of high
school.

Bill remembers the coach persisting: “They can’t play football there. You need to be at Notre Dame.”

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  • DerekJohnsonDerekJohnson Administrator, Swaye's Wigwam Posts: 59,847
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    Bill replied: “I really don’t. Thanks anyway.”

    “I just had to go to Washington,” he said. “There was no doubt. It was pretty well set.”

    He severed his Achilles tendon as a third-year sophomore in 1966, but
    recovered to become a starting defensive back in 1967 and 1968. Bill
    Sprinkle played both safety and cornerback. He tackled O.J. Simpson and
    played against UCLA’s Gary Beban and Stanford’s Jim Plunkett, all
    Heisman winners. As a senior, he shared the secondary with Al Worley,
    who set the NCAA record that season with 14 interceptions, though the
    Huskies finished 3-5-2.

    Bill left UW without experiencing a Rose Bowl, but he also left with a
    reputation. Once, when Danny was playing golf in Whitefish, Mont., and
    the loudspeaker announced his group to the tee, another golfer asked if
    he was related to Bill Sprinkle. The man used to be a Washington
    assistant coach. He told Danny: “Your dad is the toughest player I’ve
    ever coached.”

    High praise, if not breaking news.

    “I’ve had like three or four people come up,” Danny said, “and they’re like,
    ‘your dad knocked me out of a game. He knocked me out cold in high
    school.’”

    It made Bill a member of an elite club at Washington — the group deemed
    “110 percenters” by defensive coordinator Tom Tipps, who, like Owens,
    had coached the famed “Junction Boys” under Bear Bryant at Texas
    A&M. For a time during Owens’ tenure, UW’s toughest, hardest-working
    defensive players were awarded purple helmets to wear during games as a
    badge of honor.

    Bill earned one during his junior season.

    Like his dad, Danny played football in high school — a patellar tendon
    injury nixed his senior season — but “he was just a magic basketball
    player,” Bill said, making all-state twice at Helena High. A year later,
    he was the Big Sky’s top freshman, and eventually left Montana State as
    the most prolific 3-point shooter in school history. Danny returned to
    his alma mater as an assistant, then again as head coach, and cemented
    his local legend status by leading the Bobcats to two NCAA Tournament
    appearances in four seasons.

    In his only season at Utah State, Sprinkle led the Aggies to this year’s
    tourney and a first-round victory over TCU, before Purdue and star
    center Zach Edey steamrolled them by 39 points. A week later, Erin jokes
    that she’s still hoarse from trying to will her brother’s (former) team
    past the indomitable Edey. 

    The middle of Bill and Danette’s three children, Danny was “the peacemaker,
    always,” Erin said, a description she knows might be at odds with his
    fiery sideline demeanor. “I always say I wish I was as nice of a person
    as Danny is,” she said. “He truly is a really kind person, and he’ll do
    anything for anybody.

    “There are not a lot of pretenses with him. He just kind of is who he is.”

    Before he led two different schools to the NCAA tournament, Danny was the
    little brother sleeping on Erin’s couch in Los Angeles, between
    assistant jobs after Cal State Northridge had fired longtime coach Bill
    Braswell, driving an old Ford and shopping at Goodwill. Danny landed on
    the staff at Cal State Fullerton, where he worked six seasons — and
    upgraded to a one-bedroom apartment in Brea — before Montana State made
    him head coach in 2019. 

    “I haven’t been handed nothin’,” he said, “and I’m proud of that.

  • DerekJohnsonDerekJohnson Administrator, Swaye's Wigwam Posts: 59,847
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    “He’s just not going to fail,” Bill said. “He never failed in sports or
    schoolwork or whatever, and he never failed to shovel the walk when he
    needed to, or rake the lawn. He just was always a doer.”

    Bill coached, too. It’s why Danny was born in Pullman, in October 1976, when
    his dad was an assistant at the University of Idaho, prompting Danny’s
    remark at his intro presser: “I’m not from Pullman — I was born in
    Pullman, that’s it. I didn’t have a choice where I was born, and my dad
    is still pissed off about it.” The family moved to Montana a little more
    than a year later, and Bill became a high-school teacher and coach,
    then an administrator for the state’s high-school athletics association.
    He also served as an evaluator for Big Sky Conference officials.

    Danny says even as he embarked on his own coaching career, his dad never
    related any desire for him to coach at Washington. Bill has never been
    one to pry.

    “I was never pressured to play sports. I was never pressured to coach,”
    Danny says. “He’s just always been there for me. I’m sure it’s probably
    been a dream of his, kind of like it was mine, but we never really
    talked about it.”

    He does say of his sisters, Erin and Lacey: “I know they manifested it. They wanted it to happen.”

    Erin works at Amazon and lives downtown. She, too, is a product of her
    father’s UW allegiance. “I don’t know if we had much of a choice,” she
    said. “We just were born in purple and gold.” Like Danny, her childhood
    was spent on fields and in gymnasiums, following dad around as he helped
    organize high-school events.

    Sitting with her parents at that first press conference, it finally started to
    sink in that her little brother is going to coach the Washington
    Huskies.

    “I couldn’t stop crying for probably the first five minutes,” she said.

    “I think any of these elite jobs would have been a special experience to
    be there in the room, and to see the press and everything. But for it to
    be Washington was an extra level of special for our family.”

    Not long after his son finished addressing the media, Bill was already engrossed in conversation.

    An old teammate wanted to say hello.

    — Christian Caple, On Montlake

  • DerekJohnsonDerekJohnson Administrator, Swaye's Wigwam Posts: 59,847
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    (Every now and then I post these outside of the Wam)

  • CFetters_Nacho_LoverCFetters_Nacho_Lover Moderator, Swaye's Wigwam Posts: 28,795
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  • LebamDawgLebamDawg Member, Swaye's Wigwam Posts: 8,527
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    I grew up in the south end of the Rainier Valley - Sprinkle family owned businesses in the area. I remember seeing the signs but have not any idea what businesses they were. I just knew they were associated with the UW.

    and I be old so that was years ago

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