Bowling Green State University

Derek van der Merwe
Director of Athletics and Recreation

Derek van der Merwe

Derek van der Merwe was named BGSU’s 15th director of athletics and recreation on Oct. 25, 2022. Van der Merwe comes to BGSU from the University of Arizona, where he has served as the associate vice president and chief operations officer since 2018 for the Wildcat athletics department.

“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, 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.

The official start date for van der Merwe will be determined in the coming weeks. He will be joined in Bowling Green with his wife Stephanie Paris, a former collegiate softball player and coach. The couple has four children: Emily, Lauren, Ian, and Patton.