Van der Merwe, CMU's deputy athletics director and the athletics department's chief operating officer, was introduced at a noon (ET) press conference on the campus of Austin Peay in Clarksville, Tenn.
"We are so appreciative of the dedication and commitment Derek has made to Central Michigan University," said CMU Director of Athletics Dave Heeke. "Derek is one of the true rising stars of our profession. He has not only embraced CMU's academic mission but has lived out every aspect of the athletics department's championship culture. Derek is committed to excellence in everything he does and focuses on providing the student-athlete a positive experience athletically, academically, and socially. He has led us to new heights, and he will no doubt do the same for Austin Peay. We are so pleased for Derek, his wife, Amy, and their entire family as they move to this next exciting chapter."
The Chippewas have had unprecedented success during van der Merwe's 16-year tenure, which began in 1997 following his playing career as a CMU student-athlete. In the last 10 years, CMU has won more than 45 Mid-American Conference championships, maintained a cumulative department grade point average of more than 3.0, and achieved an NCAA Graduation Success Rate that exceeds 75 percent. In 2009, CMU was awarded the MAC's inaugural Cartwright Award as the top overall institution exemplifying success in the classroom, in competition, and in the community.
"After 22 years as a student-athlete, administrator, and community member in Mount Pleasant, my education at Central Michigan University is complete," said van der Merwe. "I have been surrounded, taught, and mentored by some of the greatest people in higher education. My family and I will always be thankful for what this great university and community have given us."
Van der Merwe's responsibilities grew to include oversight of facilities, events, summer camps, business operations, communications, the Chippewa Athletic Fund, corporate sales, and marketing. He served as the primary administrator for football, men's basketball, softball, and wrestling and had previously served as sport administrator for field hockey and baseball.
This past year, five Chippewas teams advanced to NCAA postseason play. Three were nationally ranked and the field hockey program 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 their fifth bowl game in seven years, winning their second in a row. The Chippewa Athletic Fund experienced five years of record-breaking fundraising and is expected to bring in more than $1.3 million in 2013. In those five years, self-generated revenues have increased by 96 percent and the donor base has grown by more than 800 members. CMU annually raises more external funds than any other athletics department in the MAC.
In the fall of 2011, van der Merwe was one of 12 senior associate athletic directors – the first from a non-BCS institution – selected by the Division IA Athletic Directors' Association to participate in its inaugural Fellows Program aimed at establishing professional mentoring relationships and developmental opportunities for future athletic directors.
"I have spent the last 16 years being mentored by my former athletics director, Herb Deromedi, current athletics director Dave Heeke, and executive athletics director Marcy Weston," van der Merwe said. "These and many other CMU faculty and staff have given me the confidence to take the next step in my professional career. There will always be a special place in my heart for this great university and the many student-athletes, faculty, staff, donors, and fans who always believe in the Maroon and Gold. Fire Up Chips!"
After only one year of high school football he walked on to CMU's football team and later earned a full athletic scholarship. The offensive lineman (1991-95) helped the Chippewas to the Mid-American Conference title and Las Vegas Bowl in 1994 and earned Academic All-MAC honors as a co-captain in 1995. He earned both bachelor's and master's degrees from CMU.
His professional career began in 1997 as an academic adviser in the CMU athletics department. From there he was promoted within the department to compliance coordinator (1998), director of compliance (1999), assistant athletics director (2001), associate athletics director with sport oversight (2002), senior associate athletics director (2005), and finally to his current position in December 2011.
He and Amy, a former three-time All-MAC Chippewa softball player, have three children: Emily, Lauren and Ian.