BGSU announces Derek van der Merwe as director of athletics

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio - Following a national search, Bowling Green State University has announced Derek van der Merwe as its director of athletics. Van der Merwe comes to BGSU from the University of Arizona Athletics, where he has served as the associate vice president and chief operations officer since 2018.

“We are thrilled to welcome Derek van der Merwe as the University’s next director of athletics,” BGSU President Rodney K. Rogers said. “Derek is a committed leader within the NCAA with significant Power Five Conference and athletics experience. He has a deep understanding of how to leverage the holistic role athletics has on a comprehensive institution, he will embrace our mission to create public good, and he will position BGSU Athletics for a strong future.”

BGSU launched a national search for the director of athletics position in late August, and on Tuesday, Oct. 25, President Rogers introduced van der Merwe as the University’s 15th director of athletics during a live announcement at the Stroh Center.

"It is an honor for me and my family to join Bowling Green State University, a community rich in tradition and history," van der Merwe said. "I feel a great sense of responsibility to serve the people, history and legacy here at BGSU and I will work tirelessly every day to honor and live up to its legacy."

Van der Merwe has worked in higher education for more than 25 years, serving in leadership roles in both athletics and university-wide positions. He has held leadership positions in the PAC-12 Conference, the Ohio Valley Conference and the Mid-American Conference.  

Prior to his role at the University of Arizona Athletics, van der Merwe was the vice president of Advancement, Communication and Strategic Initiatives at Austin Peay State University in Tennessee, where he also previously served as director of intercollegiate athletics. He started his career as an academic advisor at Central Michigan University and worked his way up to chief operating officer and deputy athletics director.

With broad professional experience, van der Merwe has led numerous strategic planning initiatives within athletics departments and across universities that have focused on developing strong planning vehicles for program success. In 2019, he led the creation of the University of Arizona Athletics’ first-ever comprehensive strategic plan, “The Wildcat Way,” which supports the department’s mission of the holistic development of student-athletes.

“Division I Athletics is experiencing transformational change including name, image and likeness, the need to diversify resources, an increased emphasis on student-athlete well-being, conference realignment, the transfer portal, and the need to engage fans, communities, and, most importantly, our students,” President Rogers said. “Derek is uniquely positioned to navigate this landscape because of his experience in both athletics and across universities, providing a forward-thinking, holistic experience for our student-athletes, supporters and students.”     

Born and raised in South Africa to missionary parents, van der Merwe attended Central Michigan University, where he was a student-athlete and earned Academic All-MAC honors as a co-captain of CMU football in 1995. He earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from CMU.

What they're saying about Derek van der Merwe

“I could not be more proud of Derek’s accomplishments at Arizona. He has been an impact player during some very challenging times for all athletic programs. His efforts and leadership have put us in a strong position for the future and while we hate to lose him, Bowling Green is getting a true champion to lead their athletics department.” - Dr. Robert Robbins, President, The University of Arizona

“Derek van der Merwe is an exceptional leader with broad experience in Division I collegiate athletics. He was a significant contributor when we worked together at Austin Peay. He invested in authentic relationships with university community members and fans that built support for the athletics program, all while staying focused on the student-athlete experience. I’m happy for Derek and for Bowling Green; it’s a great match.” - Alisa White, President, Sam Houston State University and Former President at Austin Peay State University 

"Derek brings significant experience as an intercollegiate athletics and higher education administrator. I look forward to working with him and welcoming Derek to the Council of Directors of Athletics. He has a strategic focus and will be a passionate leader of the Bowling Green athletics program." - Jon A. Steinbrecher, Commissioner Mid-American Conference

“Congratulations to Bowling Green State University on the hire of Derek van der Merwe as its new director of athletics! Derek is an exceptional administrator as well as an incredibly talented leader who always centers on the very best for student-athletes. While at Arizona, Derek was instrumental in the overall operations of the athletics department, which has resulted in unprecedented levels of sustained success. Coaches, administrators, supporters, student-athletes, community members and all associated with BGSU will love his enthusiasm, passion and vision. This is an absolute 'home run' hire!” - Dave Heeke, Vice President/Director of Athletics, University of Arizona

“Bowling Green has made an outstanding decision in announcing Derek van der Merwe as their next athletic director. Derek is an innovative leader who works tirelessly to enhance everything about the student-athlete experience: academic success, athletics excellence and personal development. He is also a great teammate who will work alongside other campus leaders to advance Bowling Green State University.” - Marcus Blossom, Athletics Director, Creighton University  

"I’ve known Derek for many years and have always been impressed with his integrity, work ethic and ability to bring people together. Leadership is always important but even more so during these tenuous times. Bowling Green is in great hands and congratulations to Derek." - Whit Babcock, Athletics Director, Virginia Tech

“Derek is a great guy and it was a great experience working with him the past year. He’s well-rounded in all facets of running an NCAA Athletic Department and is definitely a get-stuff done guy!! Bowling Green is getting a great person and leader who is well-equipped to lead them in the ever-evolving world of college athletics.” - Tommy Lloyd, Arizona Men’s Basketball

“For the past 22 months, I had the privilege to work side by side with Derek. As a first-time head coach, I relied heavily on his guidance, experience, knowledge and overall expertise in all things college athletics. He was an incredible partner, as we worked tirelessly to rebuild Arizona Football. While I am saddened to see Derek go, Bowling Green is about to get a superstar in this profession. Derek epitomizes a great leader, and I can’t wait to see what he does leading the athletics department at Bowling Green State University.” - Jedd Fisch, Head Football Coach, University of Arizona

“Bowling Green State University has made an incredible hire in Derek van der Merwe. I have had the pleasure of working closely with him over the last four-and-a-half years and saw what a positive impact he made on Arizona Women’s Basketball, the University of Arizona and Arizona athletics. He is a dynamic leader with a clear vision. Derek has high standards and expectations, and he isn’t afraid to manage through the changes of college athletics. He will lead the Falcons with distinction and purpose. Congratulations to both Bowling Green State University and Derek van der Merwe as they begin this journey together.”- Adia Barnes, Head Coach, Arizona Women’s Basketball

“Bowling Green has made an outstanding hire with Derek van der Merwe. Derek has a very complete skill set to lead any athletics department in the country. He supports coaches and programs at the level they need to reach their maximum potential, and his leadership and communication ability will be a huge asset for Bowling Green for years to come.” - Jay Johnson, Head Baseball Coach, Louisiana State University 

“Derek has had a steady influence in our department through some very tough times with COVID-19 and the current state of athletics. I cannot think of a better person to lead your department into the future. Derek is a strong leader with great communication skills, compassion for the student-athlete and a tireless worker. He has made a positive impact in our program and I am convinced you have made a great choice to lead your program well into the future. He has a great understanding of all aspects of college athletics and will lead with passion and integrity.”  - Mike Candrea, Special Advisor to the Athletic Director, Former Head Softball Coach, The University of Arizona

Updated: 10/25/2022 04:23PM