Gordon Monson: Danny Sprinkle leaves Utah State, further blazing the trail for college athletes seeking more money wherever it can be found

Sprinkle bolted for the Big Ten and the Washington Huskies after one season with the Aggies.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Danny Sprinkle as Utah State faces San Francisco, NCAA basketball in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 16, 2023.

Anybody surprised that Danny Sprinkle is one and done at Utah State?

Only a fool would be.

Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. He used the Aggies, like the basketball coaches before him at the school, as a mattress to bounce off to greater opportunity and boatloads of more money for himself at … fill in the blank. In Sprinkle’s case, Washington.

Utah State is 3 for its last 3, and counting, in this regard. Craig Smith, gone to Utah. Ryan Odom, gone to VCU. Sprinkle, gone to the Huskies. It’s just the way of the world, the college sports world.

In that light, can we put aside the comments and complaints from many coaches about the NIL money athletes are getting these days, the moaning and groaning from coaches about those athletes no longer looking for some altruistic path of years gone by through the college experience, rather those misguided young people becoming mercenaries, blinded by the temptation of looking for the most gold wherever they can get it. Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Those complaints are a joke, always have been a joke.

Coaches are the ones who’ve long ago set the tone of money being the master, of ambition being by far the single most important factor in decisions coaches make.

It makes you wonder what coaches really think as they say in their respective locker rooms, or out on the practice floor, when they urge their players to forget about the name on the back of their jersey, and remember the name on the front. What they’re mostly thinking is, remember the name on the plate on the door to the coach’s office, yeah, that name. Don’t play selfishly, for selfish satisfaction, play for the good of the group.


Next time a coach says that, the entire team should bust up laughing.

It’s a lie.

And if everyone knows it’s a lie, maybe that makes it OK.

Sprinkle, as much as any coach in the country, benefited from players transferring from other programs to his new one in Logan prior to this past season. When he came in, he had no points on his initial roster. So he brought points with him — from his previous team at Montana State, by way of Great Osobor and Darius Brown II, and also from other schools. He knew what he was doing when he brought those guys in — robbing Peter to pay Paul, and to get himself paid in a big way.

Basketball wasn’t the only game Sprinkle was playing. And that’s all part of it. Coaches know they have to win in order to keep their jobs or to take somebody else’s for a bigger contract. So Sprinkle used players looking for something better for themselves so he could look for something better for himself. And he was darn good at it, reaping the reward he sought.

At least he wasn’t outwardly hypocritical about that pursuit. What he quietly told his players in times when their personal sacrifice was called upon for the greater good, his greater good, I do not know. But it worked, and he got what he wanted. It was a win-win for him and his players, at least the ones who were highlighted in the process of the Aggies’ success.

What it did for Utah State was a win and a loss. The Ags got a Mountain West title out of it. They also got a win in the NCAA Tournament. No other men’s team in the state can say that this year. They also extended USU’s reputation as a fairly proud basketball school, all as that aforementioned plate on the coach’s door is being switched out and the door itself spins in a whirl.

Smith, Odom, Sprinkle. Who’s next? And where will he eventually end up? Not in Logan. Utah State could hire Sweet Polly Purebred, could hire Dick Dastardly, could hire Beelzebub himself, and any of them would rack up a glossy record and an immediate offer to coach somewhere in a major conference.

It’s a fact of life. College basketball life. Or he’ll lose and become somebody else’s assistant somewhere else. How’s the song go? “… Doesn’t anyone stay in one place anymore?”

Most of the eyes reading this, with perhaps scant noble exceptions here and there, would wander if given the opportunity elsewhere for a job with a higher profile and more, much more, money. Millions and millions of dollars.

That’s the way college basketball and college sports of the bigger kind work. Win and receive a huge boost to the benefit that matters most — your own.

In the meantime, coaches doing the commenting and the complaining about players following the example that the coaches themselves have set and keep on setting should stuff a sock in their mugs. There’s no honor here.

Winning isn’t everything, it’s not even the only thing. It’s the thing that will back the Brinks truck up to the door of those who can best take advantage of opening it — on their way to somewhere else.