U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo -- Jeff Heidmous, the most successful water polo coach in Air Force Academy history, announced his retirement effective May 31, 2018. Heidmous coached the Falcons for 25 seasons, leading the team to three conference championships, five NCAA appearances and more than 300 wins.
““We are so grateful for Jeff’s tremendous service to the Air Force Academy,” director of athletics Jim Knowlton said. “Jeff’s exceptional leadership, dedication and vision have led our water polo program to conference championships and NCAA appearances. His pride in serving at his alma mater has helped develop so many incredible leaders of character for our nation. Jeff has left an indelible legacy here at the Academy and we wish him and his family all the best for continued success in his retirement.”
Heidmous, a 1977 USAFA graduate, began his Air Force coaching career in 1981. From 1981 through 1984, he posted a 37-44-1 record in four seasons before heading to UC Santa Barbara in 1985 to earn his master’s degree. He returned to the Academy in 1986, and served as the head coach through the 1998 season, when he retired from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel. During those 13 seasons, he led the Falcons to a 195-158 record and to the Western Water Polo Association Championship in 1990 and 1994. After serving in athletic administration at the Academy for 11 years, Heidmous returned to coach the Falcons from 2010-17 and led the team to a 96-125 record during those eight seasons. In 2012, Heidmous led the Falcons to the WWPA Championship and a fourth-place finish in the NCAA Tournament.
“How lucky have I been to be able to coach and teach at my alma mater,” Heidmous said. “The Academy is a special place and we’ve been fortunate to serve here for so long. The longer you are here, the more you realize your responsibility to preserve the level of excellence the nation expects from this national treasure. It’s been a tremendous privilege to help develop our nation’s future leaders over the last four decades, especially all those young men who make up the long blue line of water polo players.”
During his 25 seasons, he led the Falcons to a 328-327-1 overall record. He was named the WWPA Coach of the Year three times (1990, 1994 and 2012). Twenty-three of his 25 teams finished the season nationally ranked in the top 20, including 16 top-15 rankings and five top-10 finishes. Before his arrival in 1981, no Air Force water polo team had ever been nationally ranked. In addition, between 1988 and 1996, Heidmous led the Falcons to nine straight appearances in the WWPA championship game (then a conference record), winning a pair of WWPA titles (1990 and 1994). His 1994 team compiled a perfect 12-0 record in conference action.
“Jeff Heidmous has been more than a championship water polo coach, he has been the bedrock for this athletic department,” said associate athletic director George Nelson. “His athletes have gone on to become great leaders and have given great sacrifices. He will be tough to replace as a coach, administrator and leader in the department, but he will be a Falcon friend for life.”
During his tenure, 14 players earned All-America honors and 46 earned a total of 76 All-WWPA selections, including four league MVPs. Heidmous' players were just as successful in the classroom, earning 55 academic all-conference honors (31 players) and nine honorees on the ACWPC All-Academic Team (17 awards).
Heidmous also served as the head coach for the 1987 and 1988 U.S. Junior National Development water polo teams, winning two Can-Am-Mex tournaments, and led the South team at the 1990 and 1995 U.S. Olympic Sports Festivals, earning a silver medal in 1995. In 1987, he was honored as one of the original cadre of Elite-Level coaches certified by USA Water Polo and was later selected to the national team coaching pool from 1990-1994.
For his coaching achievements, involvement in USA Water Polo, and contributions to the growth of water polo outside of California (especially at the collegiate level) he was inducted as a coach into the USA Water Polo Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2007, Heidmous was selected to the NCAA Men's Water Polo Championships and Rules Committees and subsequently voted in as the Chair of the Championships Committee for 2010.
“It’s true what they say . . . it’s never easy deciding when to retire,” Heidmous added. “Leaving the Academy makes that decision especially hard. Barb and I met in the Cadet Gym in 1981 and the Academy has been a part of our family for 37 years. Our lives have been enriched by so many great friendships through our service to the water polo team, the athletic department, the Academy and the local community. We’ll miss being a part of the Academy team . . . but after 37 years it’s time for Barb and me to go figure out how to be really good at retirement!”
Heidmous and his wife, Barb, have three children: Jodi, Bryan and Briget.
The Academy will conduct a national search for Heidmous’ replacement.