MARYVILLE, Mo. — Northwest Missouri State announced Wednesday that one of the most successful and well-respected coaches in the history of collegiate athletics, Mel Tjeerdsma, will serve as the school’s next director of athletics. Tjeerdsma starts his new role in mid-April.
Tjeerdsma, 66, announced his retirement as the Bearcat football coach in 2010 after 17 years at the institution where he orchestrated one of the greatest football program transformations in collegiate athletics.
“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as the athletic director at Northwest Missouri State University,” said Tjeerdsma, who was enthusiastically welcomed by the Bearcat coaching staff and student-athletes as well as Northwest alumni, faculty, staff, friends and community members at Wednesday’s news conference. “For 17 years, Northwest was our home, and we are excited to return to Maryville. The Northwest athletics program has a rich and outstanding tradition, and it is my goal to see it continue to thrive and improve in the years to come. ‘Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat’ is more meaningful to me now than ever before.”
As Northwest’s director of athletics, Tjeerdsma will be responsible for leading the institution’s athletics program, providing an overall vision for the program and serving as the lead athletics fundraiser. He’ll oversee the university’s athletics personnel, budget and facilities and will work to address an athletics strategic plan and the funding necessary to address such.
“Northwest is ecstatic to welcome Mel and Carol back to campus,” Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski said. “We can proudly talk legacy and the past, but more pointedly, we look to a very bright future with Mel at the helm. This will not be a figurehead sort of position. His external focus on behalf of Northwest athletics will be invaluable as well as his focus on serving as a leader, mentor and guide to our student-athletes, athletics department, campus community and alumni and friends.”
Since departing Northwest in February 2011, Tjeerdsma coached Team USA to a world championship at the 2011 International Federation of American Football World Cup in Austria. He also was a member of Austin College’s institutional advancement development team where he led athletics fundraising efforts. Most recently, he served the NCAA, piloting the coaches connection program that used prominent former coaches to create a more effective dialogue between coaches and the Division II governance structure and staff.
Four years after Tjeerdsma’s inaugural winless season with the Bearcats, Northwest became the first NCAA Division II football program to finish a season 15-0. The Bearcats won back-to-back national championships in 1998 and 1999 — the university’s first national titles in any sport. Northwest added a third championship in 2009 that capped an unprecedented run of five national championship game appearances that began in 2005. He had a 32-10 overall postseason record, 12 Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association conference championships and, with a record of 183-43, he is the Northwest football program’s all-time winningest coach.
Tjeerdsma succeeds Wren Baker, who resigned earlier this month to become the deputy athletic director of external affairs at the University of Memphis.