Brian Merkel is returning to the Mississippi University for Women Athletics Department as its assistant athletics director. Merkel, who started the Owls’ men’s basketball program in 2018 and served as its head coach until 2021, began his new duties at The W on June 3, 2024, after spending the past two years at Starkville Academy. 

“I am so pleased to welcome Brian back ‘home’ to The W,” Director of Athletics Buddy Foster said. “He is going to be invaluable in our efforts to elevate the profile of Owls Athletics, as we look toward a bright future as a member of both the NCAA Division III and St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC).

“Additionally, his expertise in the areas of fundraising and marketing will also prove beneficial as we look to upgrade facilities and the overall experience for our student-athletes in the coming years. Likewise, his previous history at The W will allow him to hit the ground running; the DNA of Owls’ Athletics is already in his blood.”

While at SA, Merkel served as the boys’ basketball coach both years. In 2022-23, Merkel concurrently worked as Starkville Academy’s director of development. He spearheaded the school’s “All In” capital campaign to fund the Volunteers’ new multi-purpose building on campus (which opened in the spring of 2024). With oversight of all SA’s fundraising activities, Merkel’s efforts on the multi-purpose building exceeded the campaign goal by more than 200 percent.

In 2021-22 – the final year of his first stint with The W – Merkel switched his focus from coaching to administration, where he worked as a development officer in The W’s Office of Development and Alumni. He worked on identifying, cultivating, and soliciting new annual leadership and major gifts while building and strengthening relationships with existing donors. Merkel maintained a portfolio of donor prospects, while also assisting with marketing strategies and campus fundraising events.

“First, I want to thank President (Nora) Miller, Director of Athletics Foster, and the entire search committee for entrusting me with this important position with Owls Athletics,” Merkel said. “During my previous tenure in Columbus, the one thing that was very apparent to me was that The W has so much to offer and there is a genuine excitement and passion for this University. My goal is to help grow the program during this modern era of athletics as an NCAA Division III member and, at the same time, facilitate the connection back to the institution’s rich history of intercollegiate competition before 2003, as well. We are all a part of the family that is The W.”

As the assistant A.D., Merkel assumes the role previously occupied by Foster, before his rise to his current position of leading athletics in 2023. The W just completed its first season as a member of both the SLIAC and NCAA III in 2023-24 under Foster’s guidance.

Merkel earned his master of business administration degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in July 2013. Before that, he completed his bachelor’s degree, also in business administration (along with a minor in communication) from Millsaps College in May 2012.

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.