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Northwest Missouri State University

News Release

Mel Tjeerdsma speaks with members of the media after being announced as Northwest's next director of athletics during a news conference Wednesday. Previously, Tjeerdsma was head coach of the Northwest football program, leading it to three national championships.

Mel Tjeerdsma speaks with members of the media after being announced as Northwest's next director of athletics during a news conference Wednesday. Previously, Tjeerdsma was head coach of the Northwest football program, leading it to three national championships. (Photo by Darren Whitley/University Relations)

March 20, 2013

Tjeerdsma returns to Northwest as director of athletics

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To see more images from the news conference announcing Mel Tjeerdsma as Northwest's new athletics director, click here.

To watch the news conference in its entirety, scroll to the bottom of this page.

Mel Tjeerdsma

Mel Tjeerdsma

Northwest Missouri State University has announced that one of the most successful and well-respected coaches in the history of collegiate athletics, Mel Tjeerdsma, will serve as the institution’s next director of athletics.

Tjeerdsma, 66, announced his retirement as the Bearcat football head coach at a December 2010 news conference following 17 years of service 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. Tjeerdsma will 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,” said Northwest President Dr. John Jasinski. “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.

Mike Johnson, vice president of university advancement, said Tjeerdsma’s return to Northwest marks an exciting time of growth and renewal at the University.

“Mel is a man of character and integrity, and he exudes winning on all fronts. His timely and most-welcome return will be embraced by all of Bearcat Nation,” Johnson said. “The opportunity to partner with such a proven leader excites us as we face a future focused on the health, wellness and competitive advantage of all Northwest athletes.”

Tracy Hoza, Northwest’s head women’s soccer coach since 2003 who also served as a member of the athletics director search committee, has expressed enthusiasm that her former colleague will be returning to Northwest. 

“When Mel was a coach at Northwest, he took a sincere interest in all Bearcat athletics, along with football,” Hoza said. “Whether our teams were playing at home or on the road, you could count on receiving a text message from him offering his congratulations or a word of support. It wasn’t uncommon to see him at track meets, basketball games or anywhere else where the Bearcats were competing. He’s a real people person, connecting with coaches, student-athletes and the entire Northwest community.”

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 captured 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.

Matching on-the-field performance were honors off the field. Tjeerdsma’s teams featured seven academic All-Americans in his last seven years as coach and he had two Ken B. Jones Award winners in his last five years, recognizing the top male student-athlete in the MIAA, as well as one National Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Tjeerdsma’s honors include being named the Kansas City Chiefs’ nominee for the Don Shula Coach of the Year Award and being inducted into the NCAA Division II Football Hall of Fame and the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. He is a four-time national coach of the year honoree, was Liberty Mutual’s Coach of the Year in 2009 and is a 12-time MIAA Coach of the Year honoree.

Prior to coaching at Northwest, Tjeerdsma guided Austin College to three Texas Intercollegiate Athletic Association Championships and became the program’s all-time winningest coach. Before his time at Austin, Tjeerdsma was the offensive coordinator at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa, for eight years. He also served as the head track and field coach at Northwestern. The Red Raiders earned four trips to the NAIA Division II playoffs and won a national championship in 1983 with Tjeerdsma on staff. His track and field teams won three Tri-State Conference titles and five consecutive NAIA District 15 Indoor Championships. Prior to his collegiate coaching career, Tjeerdsma served as head football coach at Denison (Iowa) High School, where he guided his team to a 9-0 record and a 1975 state playoff berth. He earned Northwest Iowa Coach of the Year honors in 1972 after winning a state championship at Sioux Center (Iowa) High School. He was the Northwest Iowa Track and Field Coach of the Year in 1973, 1974 and 1975.

Tjeerdsma earned his bachelor’s in physical education from Southern (S.D.) State College in 1967 and a master’s degree from Northwest in 1977. He and his wife, Carol, have three married daughters and eight grandchildren, and will soon relocate to Maryville.

Tjeerdsma succeeds Wren Baker, who resigned earlier this month to become the deputy athletic director of external affairs at the University of Memphis.

A proud member of the NCAA Division II and founding member of the MIAA, Northwest offers 14 men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletics programs. Northwest athletics teams have won numerous conference titles, the football program has captured three national championships since 1998, the cheerleading team has won three national championships in the last four years and the men’s basketball head coach was named 2012 Division II men’s basketball national coach of the year. Northwest also prides itself on high success rates among its student-athletes. Student-athletes at Northwest boast a 75 percent academic success rate, exceeding the national average and ranking in the upper tier of the MIAA.

To watch the news conference in its entirety, click below.

For more information, please contact:

Mark Hornickel, Communication Manager | 660.562.1704 | Fax: 660.562.1900

Northwest Missouri State University
215 Administration Building | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468