First impressions can tell you a lot about an individual. I remember meeting Derek van der Merwe soon after he was named the 12th Athletics director in APSU history. It wasn’t a long conversation, and it might not have dealt with sports, but I could tell from that conversation how driven and focused he was in his plan for the Athletics Department.
If anyone needs proof of just how driven and focused he is, all they have to do is see the impact he has made.
In the year and a half he has served as Athletics director, the department has seen more change and advancement than it has in the last decade. Not only was van der Merwe — who will move from the Athletics Department to the position of vice president of Advancement, Communication and Strategic Initiatives — able to identify areas of growth, but he was also able to address those areas.
On the outside, the biggest noticeable achievement was the construction of the $20-million Governors Football Stadium that will help the football program continue to grow while modernizing facilities. This gives the campus a feeling of pride and excitement on football gameday that has been missing for a long time.
Van der Merwe also led the way in a complete rebranding of the Athletics Department that has seen changes to the logo and the well-known “Governor Peay.” This rebranding has been met with a fantastic response from students, alumni, student athletes and the general APSU community.
The effects of the rebranding of Athletics will continue to be felt in the coming years.
The biggest thing that has stuck out to me about van der Merwe is his dedication to education and the community.
When you think about an Athletics director, you think the position is judged on the successes and failures of the athletic teams in their different fields of competition. In a way, that is true, especially at larger schools.
The part less known or perhaps overlooked is the academic side: the reason these athletes are at the university in the first place.
Any time you spoke with van der Merwe about the Athletics Department, he would speak about how success in the classroom and the community is just as important as success on the field and say athletes have the opportunity to be leaders in more than just their sport.
That will be the legacy left in the APSU Athletics Department by van der Merwe: the high standard all future ASPU athletes will have to hold themselves to on the field, in the classroom and in the community.
Despite the short time van der Merwe held the position, the next Athletics director has big shoes to fill.