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Vargas Announces Retirement

Feb 28, 2022

STANFORD, Calif. – After 20 seasons and two national championships with the Stanford men's water polo program, The Dunlevie Family Director of Men's Water Polo John Vargas has retired from his position with the Cardinal, announced Monday.

"The chance to work with so many remarkable student-athletes, coaches and staff on a daily basis at Stanford has been incredibly rewarding to me, but the time is right for me to step away from coaching," Vargas said. "I want to express a special thanks to all of the people who have supported Cardinal men's water polo during my time at the helm. I appreciate the support of Bernard Muir and our administration, and I will remain a fervent supporter of Stanford Water Polo in the years to come."
Owning a career record of 389-117, the second-most wins of any coach in program history, Vargas guided Stanford to the 2002 and 2019 NCAA championships, while making appearances in seven total championship games and 10 NCAA tournaments overall. He directed the Cardinal to 20 or more wins 11 different times, including the winningest season in 20 years with a 26-4 campaign in 2014. Stanford claimed five MPSF titles under Vargas, including a conference-record three straight from 2018-20.
"John has been instrumental in furthering Stanford's excellence in men's water polo on the national stage and I am extremely grateful for his decades of service to the Cardinal," Bernard Muir, Stanford's Jaquish & Kenninger Director of Athletics, said. "His records speak for themselves, but I believe that John's impact as a teacher, mentor and friend will be missed as much or more than his achievements. I will certainly miss having John as a leader here on The Farm, and I wish him all the best in his next chapter."
Under Vargas' mentorship, the Cardinal produced some of the sport's premier talent, including multi-year recipients of the Peter J. Cutino Award, presented annually to the nation's most outstanding collegiate water polo player, Tony Azevedo and Ben Hallock. Cardinal players earned 92 All-America honors during Vargas' tenure, including at least three selections in each of the last five seasons.
Not only successful as a coach on The Farm, Vargas also excelled on the international stage with USA Water Polo as both a player and coach. He spent 10 years playing with the U.S. National Team and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team at the 1992 Barcelona Games, leading the U.S. to a fourth-place finish.
Vargas would then join the national team coaching staff from 1993-96, serving as an assistant coach at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Vargas took the reins as the Senior National Team's head coach in 1997, a role he would hold through 2000 and at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.
During Vargas' tenure, the national team took first or second place six times at national and international tournaments (first at the 1999 Pan-American Games, 1998 United States Cup, 1997 World FINA Cup; second at the 2000 UPS Cup, 1999 United States Cup, 1997 United States Cup). The team finished sixth at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where Vargas coached four-time Stanford All-Americans Wolf Wigo and Azevedo.

Three of Vargas' former Stanford players – Azevedo, Peter Hudnut and Peter Varellas – were members of the Team USA squad that captured silver at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. In all, nine of Vargas' former players have appeared on the sport's biggest stage as Olympians.
Vargas came to The Farm from Southern California, where he served as the head coach for the boys' water polo and swim program at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach. Vargas' teams captured four CIF Southern Section 4A championships (1985, 1987-89) and three Southern Section Division II titles (1999-2001).
Vargas graduated from UC Irvine in 1982 with a degree in social science. A two-time All-American (1981-82) and four-year letterwinner, Vargas helped lead the Anteaters to an undefeated season and NCAA title in 1982.
Stanford will immediately begin a national search for his replacement.