Warren De La Salle has named Scott Merchant as its new football coach.
Merchant, 44, who coached at Clinton Township Chippewa Valley the past seven years, is no stranger to the Catholic League, playing for Birmingham Brother Rice in the late 1980s before leading University of Detroit Jesuit’s program for a nine-year run as a young head coach.
Merchant replaces Paul Verska, who retired following the season. Merchant will also be a counselor at the school.
Merchant guided Chippewa Valley to five state playoff appearances, including the last four years.
“It’s been a whirlwind, definitely emotional," Merchant said. "This was a difficult decision because I have great kids and coaches at Chippewa Valley and the district has treated me very well.
“It was going to take a very unique situation for me to leave. I am a product of the Catholic League and the Catholic Identity was the deciding factor. To be able to share the outstanding experience that I had as a high school student with others is very attractive. I have tremendous respect for all the schools and coaches in the Central Division, which I believe is the most physical in the state.”
Verska guided De La Salle to the Division 2 state championship in 2014, earning his 200th career win in the title game. He led to 11 state playoff appearances in 14 years, earning state runner-up finishes to Muskegon in 2006 and again 2008. De La Salle finished 6-4 this past fall.
Merchant played for the legendary Al Fracassa at Brother Rice before moving on to Albion College where he graduated in 1993. He then started his coaching career at Albion College (1993-97), working under the late Pete Schmidt who led the Britons to the Division III national championship in 1994.
Merchant took over a struggling UD Jesuit program, which had suffered through eight straight losing seasons. The program had won just six games in a three-year period prior to his arrival as a 27-year-old head coach in 1998.
Merchant led UD Jesuit to a 4-5 record his first year, then to a 10-3 mark his second year when they advanced to the Division 2 state semifinals, losing 24-20 to Brother Rice. UD Jesuit finished 7-5 in 2000, then 10-3 and another state semifinal appearance in 2001.
“I got the job as a 27-year-old first-time head coach because I don’t think anyone else wanted it,” Merchant said. “We had a special three-year run, beat both Catholic Central and Brother Rice in 2001 for the first time since the '70s.”
In his seven years at Chippewa Valley, Merchant was 39-32, including 24-9 the last three seasons. The Chippewa Valley upset Macomb Dakota, 28-27, for the Division 1 district championship in 2014, ending Dakota’s 16-game winning streak in the rivalry.