Today’s post celebrates the memory of Ernest M. Sprague who went to rest in peace on this day in 1938. Mr. Sprague was seventy-two when he died. Ernest Marshall “Ernie” Sprague was born on October 20, 1865 in Farmington, Michigan. Yes, the story of this Wolverine “Pigskin Pioneer” goes way back to the Civil War!
(Note – Ernest M. Sprague is shown above with the 1887 Michigan Football team. He is standing in the middle of the back row. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan.)
Ernest M. Sprague left the family farm in 1886 to study engineering at The University of Michigan. Sprague must have had some time on his hands, or maybe he was the kind of guy who needed a “physical” break from his studies. Anyway, he signed up to play the new game of “football” for a Michigan captain named Horace G. Prettyman. Mr. Prettyman was in the final year of his three-year tenure as Michigan’s football captain. The two most important things to know about Prettyman were that he loved Michigan football and he loved winning.
Sprague is listed as a “rusher” on the 1886 Michigan Football Roster which means that he was probably a pretty tough guy. The entire 1886 season was played during a two-week span in October. Captain Prettyman set up a two-game season against the same team. In this case, Albion College agreed to play “home-and-home” games with the Wolverines.
The first game of the 1886 season was played in Albion and Michigan won by a score of 50-0. The Wolverines played the role of “gracious” hosts and eased up on their guests in game number two in Ann Arbor. Final score: Michigan 24 Albion 0. This would be the first time that a Michigan football “season” was played against the same team. It was also the first time that the entire season took place in the month of October (October 16 and 30).
The Legend of Bo Schembechler is a football love story. Millions of Michigan football fans loved Bo Schembechler almost as much as he loved The University of Michigan. This insightful book details how “Bo Who” simply became “Bo” to Wolverine Nation and to college football fans across the country and around the world. It details Bo’s twenty-one-year journey to bring Michigan Football back to national prominence and how he kept it there!
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