Michigan State football makes splash, agrees to deal with Cass Tech's Thomas Wilcher

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Four months ago, when affirming his goal was to coach college football, Detroit Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher told the Free Press:

“I guess I’ve got to find someone who will believe in me.”

That someone is Michigan State football coach Mel Tucker.

Wilcher, one of the most successful coaches in the state, has been hired by Tucker and apparently will serve as an analyst on the football staff, according to multiple sources Friday who wished to remain anonymous because the deal has not yet been announced.

MSU has not confirmed Wilcher’s hiring.

WILCHER'S STORY: Why Thomas Wilcher, one of state's top high school coaches, is ready to make college leap

Detroit Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher with players during the first half against Belleville at Belleville High School on Saturday Jan. 9, 2021.
Detroit Cass Tech coach Thomas Wilcher with players during the first half against Belleville at Belleville High School on Saturday Jan. 9, 2021.

In 23 seasons as head coach at Cass Tech, Wilcher has a 190-70 record with three state championships and a runner-up finish.

The Technicians have qualified for the past 13 state playoffs, and have won at least one playoff game in every one of those appearances.

“I always said it would be amazing if someone would hire my head coach,” Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said Friday; he served as Wilcher’s defensive coordinator for seven seasons. “He’s been saying it for years, he wanted to coach and get to the college level.

“Somebody found value in him, sounds like.”

BOOK IT: Order Mick McCabe's new high school sports book! Here's how to do it

Cass Tech won consecutive Division 1 state titles in 2011 with freshman Jayru Campbell at quarterback, then repeated in 2012.

Wilcher spoke about his desire to coach at the college level after Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, a teammate of Wilcher’s in the 1980s at Michigan, hired West Bloomfield coach Rom Bellamy, another former Wolverines player, as an assistant following last season.

It would be difficult to name a high school coach in the state who has sent more players to the college level than Wilcher.

[ Want more local sports news? Download our free mobile app on iPhone & Android! ]

Wilcher has had eight players drafted by NFL teams and Cass Tech is one of five state high schools that had multiple active NFL players last season.

Jourdan Lewis, Delano Hill, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michael Onwenu, William Campbell and Joe Barksdale are some of the Technicians who have played in the NFL.

“So there alone it provides insight to what I can do as a coach,” Wilcher previously told the Free Press. “And those are the things you have to look at — sometimes it’s not about the win-loss. The win-loss is one thing, but what we’re trying to do right now is how to make these men top players.”

It isn’t often a high school coach breaks into college coaching at the Big Ten level of a Michigan or a Michigan State.

They often begin at Division II schools or at lower-level Division I schools like those in the Mid-American Conference.

But a year ago Courtney Hawkins, a respected coach at Flint Beecher, made a seamless transition to Tucker’s MSU staff as the receivers coach.

“When you bring in a high school coach, regardless of his age, you bring in somebody who is really close to those kids, who really knows how those kids think, especially if that person is successful,” Wilcher said earlier this year. “He understands what makes young men’s success.”

It won’t be easy replacing Wilcher, but there will be many willing to try.

[ Stay informed on what's happening across Michigan: Subscribe to our news alert emails here ]

With a plethora of Division I caliber players on the current roster, Cass Tech is one of the most attractive jobs in the state.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a bunch of people apply, but I won’t be one of them,” said Crowell. "I’ve got a job.

‘I’ve been trying to imagine a Cass without Wilcher over there.”

Former Cass Tech all-stater Donshell English, who is the coach at Mumford, and Tony Blankenship, who was successful coach several other schools in the PSL, are two obvious choices to replace Wilcher.

But Wilcher apparently is hoping school administrators will choose someone from his staff to replace him.

Mick McCabe is a former longtime columnist for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at mick.mccabe11@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1. Save $10 on his new book, “Mick McCabe’s Golden Yearbook: 50 Great Years of Michigan’s Best High School Players, Teams & Memories,” by ordering right now at McCabe.PictorialBook.com

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Thomas Wilcher and Michigan State football agree to deal