Austin Peay State University will begin another trailblazing campaign in Governors athletics beginning with the announcement of a new athletics director.
Derek van der Merwe (pronounced van de meer), deputy athletics director and chief operating officer at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Mich., will become APSU’s next athletics director. He will succeed Dave Loos, whose decorated legacy as the Governors’ longtime athletics director includes 33 Ohio Valley Conference regular season and tournament championships in a 16-year span since 1997. Loos will remain at APSU as the head men’s basketball coach.
Van der Merwe was among five finalists invited for on-campus interviews conducted in late May. His appointment was approved Tuesday, June 4 by the Tennessee Board of Regents.
CMU President George Ross said he is confident that van der Merwe will advance student success on the field and in the classroom.
“From his days as a CMU Chippewa student-athlete to his time as an athletics administrator, Derek has displayed the utmost integrity, vision and leadership. We wish him the best,” he said.
Dave Heeke, associate vice president and director of CMU athletics, identified van der Merwe as “incredibly talented and one of the true rising stars of our profession.”
“He is a person who not only embraces a university's academic mission, but he allows it to direct his vision, decisions and resolve. He is committed to excellence in everything he does and focuses on providing the student-athlete a positive experience athletically, academically and socially.
"Derek will lead Austin Peay to new heights by doing things ‘the right way,’ which will make all connected with the University very proud."
CMU, known as the Chippewas in the Mid-American Conference, has 350 student-athletes in 16 athletic programs with an annual budget that now exceeds $25 million. During van der Merwe’s tenure, specifically in the last 10 years, CMU has won more than 45 Mid-American Conference Championships, maintained a cumulative department grade-point average greater than 3.0 and has achieved an NCAA Graduation Success Rate of more than 75 percent. In 2009, CMU was awarded the Mid-American Conference's inaugural Cartwright Award as the top overall institution exemplifying success in the classroom, in competition, and in the community.
This past year, five Chippewas teams advanced to NCAA postseason play, three were nationally ranked, and the field hockey team was recognized for the highest team GPA in the nation – an honor the soccer team had earned each of the previous seven years. In addition, the Chippewas played in their fifth bowl game in seven years, winning their second in a row. The Chippewa Athletic Fund has seen five years of record-breaking fundraising and is expected to bring in more than $1.3 million in 2013. In five years, self-generated revenues have increased by 96 percent and the donor base has grown by more than 800 members while CMU annually raised more external funds than any other program in the MAC.
“Central Michigan University is an institution that is consistently recognized for strong academic and athletics success,” said Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “This is a reflection of the culture and leadership of CMU. I am proud of Derek’s contribution at CMU to making it program of excellence in our conference, and I am looking forward to seeing what he will do at Austin Peay."
Van der Merwe’s close association with CMU actually began as a student-athlete who played football from 1991-95. He helped the Chippewas to the Mid-American Conference title in 1994 and earned Academic All-MAC honors as an offensive lineman in 1995 and was a co-captain his senior year. He graduated with bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science in 1996, later earning a master’s in administration in 2005.
In 1997, he joined the athletics department as an academic adviser. He served in that capacity for a year before beginning a series of promotions that led him to his current position.
As CMU’s deputy athletics director, van der Merwe oversees facilities, events, summer camps, business operations, communications, Chippewa Athletics Fund and the corporate sales and marketing areas. He also serves as the primary administrator for softball, wrestling, men's basketball and football.
From 2005-11, van der Merwe was the senior associate athletics director, overseeing the business, compliance, facilities, event management, equipment, ticketing, and communications offices. The point person for the department's capital projects, he served as chair of the university's Design and Construction Committee for the $22 million CMU Events Center, which opened in December 2010.
Van der Merwe acts as the Chippewas' sport administrator for wrestling, football and men's basketball, and has become a major influence in the sport of wrestling on a national level. He served a four-year stint on the NCAA Division I Wrestling Committee from 2007-11, which included one year as chair. He also has served as an NCAA peer reviewer for Division I institutions going through NCAA membership certification. He coordinated CMU's 2003-04 athletics certification self-study and continues to oversee the management and implementation of membership certification requirements. Van der Merwe is also the department's primary liaison to the university's Gender Equity and Diversity Committee and the Academic Senate's Athletics Committee.
He began his professional career as an academic adviser for the Chippewas before becoming the compliance coordinator in 1998. He was promoted to director of compliance in 1999, to assistant athletics director in 2001 and associate athletics director with sport oversight responsibilities in 2002.
In the fall of 2011, van der Merwe was one of 12 senior associate athletic directors from around the country selected by the Division IA Athletic Directors' Association to participate in its inaugural Fellows Program – a program which establishes professional mentoring relationships and developmental opportunities for future athletic directors. He was the first fellow selected from a non-BCS institution.
Dutch Baughman, executive director, Division IA Athletic Directors' Association, said van der Merwe is respected as one of the best athletics administrators in Division 1A.
“He is highly qualified and capable of leading and administering every aspect of an athletics department. He is also highly respected for his personal character and commitment to core values,” he said.
Van der Merwe and his wife, Amy, a former three-time All-MAC Chippewa softball player, have three children: Emily, Lauren and Ian. - Dr. Melony Shemberger