John Vargas is no stranger to success at Stanford University. In his 10 seasons as head coach of the Stanford men's water polo program, the Cardinal has reached the NCAA championship game five times, capturing the NCAA title in 2002 in his first season at the helm.
He is the fourth head coach in the history of the Stanford program, following Jim Gaughran (1969-73), Art Lambert (1974-76), and Dante Dettamanti from (1977-01).
Vargas' record at Stanford is 203-64 (.760) against the top collegiate competition in the country. He has also led the Cardinal to the 20-win mark six times. Under Vargas' watch, Stanford water polo players have earned 46 All-America honors, including four in 2011. Three of his former Stanford players, Tony Azevedo, Peter Hudnut and Peter Varellas, twice represented the United States as part of the 2008 and 2012 Olympic teams.
Last year, the Cardinal went 19-7 with a fourth-place finish at the MPSF Tournament. Stanford captured its first SoCal Tournament title since 2002 when it defeated No. 1 USC and No. 3 California on the same day to claim the crown. That tournament win ascended the Cardinal to the No. 1 spot in the Varsity Top 20 Poll, a spot the Cardinal would hold for two weeks.
Four Cardinal players would earn ACWPC All-America honors following the season, highlighted by freshman utility Alex Bowen, who was named to the first team as well as MPSF Newcomer of the Year.
In 2010, Stanford posted a 15-8 record and came within a goal of qualifying for the National Collegiate Championship. Entering the 2011 MPSF Championship needing to win the tournament for a bid to the National Collegiate, Vargas' squad upset No. 1 California in the semifinals to set up a title-game duel against No. 2 USC. The Cardinal battled the Trojans to a 9-9 draw through over 41 minutes of action before USC managed to score the sudden-death winner in the third overtime, and second sudden-death, period.
In 2009, the Cardinal racked up a 21-4 record, its second straight 20-win season under Vargas' tutelage. Stanford also went on to finish second in the highly-competitive MPSF regular-season race, finishing second with a record of 7-1.
Five players were named All-Americans by the Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches (ACWPC), led by goalie Jimmie Sandman earning a spot on the first team for the second year in a row.
In 2008 Vargas guided the Cardinal to the national championship game for the first time since 2005. Stanford accumulated a record of 25-6 on the year and finished the season as the national runner-up following a 7-5 loss to USC in the title game.
Under Vargas' guidance, five players earned All-America honors, highlighted by driver Sage Wright earning his second straight first-team nod and goalkeeper Jimmie Sandman also being named to the first team. Sandman also became Stanford's first MPSF Player of the Year since Tony Azevedo took home the honor each year from 2001-04.
Over the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Stanford posted a 34-17 record and to final rankings of fourth in the national poll each season. Five players earned All-America honors following the 2006 season, and six were named All-Americans in 2007, the program's highest total since 2001.
From 2002-05, Vargas guided his Stanford squads to 20-win seasons as well as four straight NCAA title-game appearances. This run began in his debut season of 2002, leading the Cardinal to a 24-5 record and the program's 10th national championship and second consecutive.
Behind the play of National Player of the Year Azevedo, and first-team All-American Hudnut, the Cardinal boasted five All-Americans and pulled off the fourth back-to-back set of national titles in program history.
The Cardinal would go on to post three consecutive national runner-up finishes from 2003-05, compiling overall records of 22-5 (2003), 23-5 (2004) and 20-7 (2005). Under Vargas' tutelage, Azevedo would capture national player of the year honors once more in 2003 before closing out his collegiate career in 2004 with his fourth All-America first-team selection. Teammate Thomas Hopkins would earn All-America honors in each of the three seasons, culminating with first-team honors in 2004 and 2005.
In 2004, Vargas led the Cardinal to the first MPSF Tournament title of his tenure.
Vargas came to The Farm from Southern California where he was the head coach for the boys' water polo and swim program at Corona del Mar High School in Newport Beach. During his tenure, Vargas' teams captured four CIF Southern Section 4A championships (1985, 1987, 1988, 1989) and three Southern Section Division II titles (1999, 2000, 2001).
Also during that time, Vargas was the head coach of the United States Men's National Team (1997-2000). Over that stretch the national team took first or second place six times at national and international tournaments (1st: 1999 Pan-American Games, 1998 United States Cup, 1997 World FINA Cup; 2nd: 2000 UPS Cup, 1999 United States Cup, 1997 United States Cup). The team finished sixth at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where he coached four-time All-American Wolf Wigo and Azevedo. Vargas also served as an assistant coach for the U.S. National Team from 1993-96 before assuming the reins of head coach.
Vargas graduated from UC Irvine with a degree in social science. As a four-year letterman with the Anteaters, Vargas helped lead the team to an undefeated 1982 season and the NCAA title. Vargas was a two-time All-American (1981, 1982).
Vargas continued his 10-year playing career with the U.S. National Team. During his career with the team, the U.S. finished no lower than fifth in eight national and international championships - including first-place at the 1991 World FINA Cup in Barcelona and second at the 1983 World University Games in Edmonton, the 1986 Goodwill Games in Moscow, and the 1991 Pan Am Games in Cuba. As a member of the 1992 United States Olympic Team, Vargas helped lead the Americans to a fourth-place finish in Barcelona.
Vargas and his wife, Dawn, live in Cupertino.