Thomas Wilcher plans to leave all his options on the table.
The Detroit Cass Tech football coach, who has won three Michigan High School Athletic Association Division I state titles and helped a long list of players earn college football scholarships, would consider leaving Cass Tech for the “right” collegiate coaching job.
“You can’t stand still,” he told the Free Press. “You got to keep moving forward.”
Although Wilcher has no immediate job offers, he said he has spoken to colleges in the past and will continue to listen.
“It has to be the right type of coaching position for me,” said Wilcher, who became Cass Tech’s head coach in 1997. “It’s important to keep an open mind.”
Wilcher’s role models include Ferris State coach Tony Annese, who won three prep titles at Muskegon and then left to coach Grand Rapids Community College, where he won two national titles. Now, Annese is building an NCAA Division II power at Ferris State.
“He took his high school success with him and he’s winning wherever he goes,” Wilcher said. “I’d like to be like him one day.”
After leading Cass Tech to state titles in 2011, 2012 and this season, along with a runner-up finish in 2015, Wilcher proved he can succeed at Michigan’s highest prep level. Plus, he has shown an ability to develop elite talent and build lasting relationships with his players.
Cass Tech, which beat Novi Detroit Catholic Central, 49-20, in November’s Division I state final, will send at least nine players to Division I FBS college programs, highlighted by five-star receiver and Michigan commit Donovan Peoples-Jones.
“It’s not how a situation can benefit me; it’s how I can benefit other people,” Wilcher said. “I want to help make young people better and be a positive influence on their lives. That’s the most important thing.”
Losing Wilcher, also the boys track coach, would be tough for principal Lisa Phillips and the entire Cass Tech community. Wilcher, a high school football and track standout at Detroit Central, played both sports at Michigan.
“He’s like a father figure to so many people here,” Phillips said. “He explains to the boys that when you come here, this is a different type of school. There are certain expectations you have to follow. This team is a family, more so than just a football team.
“I would support him if a great opportunity came up, although it would be sad. There’s only one Coach Wilcher. We would be his biggest cheerleaders if he got a chance to move up, but to stay here and continue his success means the world to me, our staff and our students.”
Wilcher is more than happy to stay put, if the perfect college job doesn’t come along.
“I love Cass Tech,” he said. “I love coaching here and leading this program. Everyone has aspirations to advance themselves, but if nothing ever happens, this is the place for me.”
Peoples-Jones, who recently graduated from Cass Tech and plans to enroll at Michigan in January, will always cherish his relationship with Wilcher and time at the school.
“This season was fun. It’s a testament to our coaches’ dedication,” Peoples-Jones said. “I’m so happy I came here and played all four years. It’s truly been a great ride. High school state championships are one of the biggest things you can accomplish.”
Whether he remains at Cass Tech, Wilcher’s contributions will never be forgotten.