San Marcos football coach Hesselmeyer dies suddenly

San Marcos football coach Jeff Hesselmeyer passed away suddenly late Friday night or early Saturday at his home, the school reported.

The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack, but it hasn’t been confirmed.

“It’s a real shock,” said athletic director Abe Jahadhmy, who received the news while on vacation in Washington D.C.

Jahadhmy said he last saw Hesselmeyer before he left on his trip on Tuesday night.

“I was told he was at work on Friday,” Jahadhmy said.

Known affectionally as “Hess,” Hesselmeyer, 59, was entering his third season as head football coach at San Marcos. He took over the position in 2009 after Dare Holdren stepped down. He served on Holdren’s staff for two years.

Hesselmeyer started his football coaching career at Dos Pueblos. He served on the staff of the late Scott O’Leary and later became the head coach.

“He had huge influences on me,” Hesselmeyer said of O’Leary prior to Dos Pueblos naming its football stadium after the beloved coach and athletic director last year. “I had the good fortune to get to work with Scott for 25 years.”

Hesselmeyer was a widower. His wife, Jennie, passed away six years ago from cancer. They didn’t have any children.

Hesselmeyer was noted for getting the most out of his football teams and for his creative offensive mind.

At DP, he installed a wide-open passing attack and guided the program back to prominence with talented quarterbacks such as J.T. Stone (1992-95) and Anthony Ramos.

“He’s always been there for me and I’ll always be there for him,” Stone said told the News-Press back in 2001. “I love the guy. He’s a kind-hearted person and a good man. I will go to bat for him.”

He was very popular on both the San Marcos and DP campuses.

“Jeff really cared for the kids,” Jahadhmy said. “He was so kind-hearted. He could be gruff, but he was so kind-hearted to all kids and all human beings. He was such an unselfish person.”

Hesselmeyer graduated from UCSB. He taught history and coached football at Dos Pueblos for 24 years, which included 10 as head coach.

He stepped down in 1997 after winning the Santa Barbara Athetic Round Table’s high school Coach of the Year award. DP, however, talked him into returning as head coach in 1999 for two more seasons.

“He is truly special and I will miss him very much,” said Jahadhmy.

Services are pending.


  1. Dgreenwood says

    I went to high school (Menlo Atherton High School) in the Bay Area, as well as UCSB with Jeff.  He will be missed not only by his Santa Barbara community here, but his childhood friends and his family.  He will be sorely missed by all of us.
    Diane Greenwood
    Santa Barbara

  2. Lorako55 says

    Coach Hess will be missed!  I am an SM Football parent who had the privilege of working with him and I can honestly say that he adored the kids.  He was up against many hurdles, but never gave up on the kids…  And like Abe said, he may have come across a bit on the “gruffy” side but truly had a heart of GOLD.  And gosh, we even got him to start using his email account.  I thought for sure we would be him on a cell this year!!!  SMHS has lost one of thier best…. He will be missed that is FOR SURE… R.I.P Coach…… 

  3. My son played for Coach Hess and is in shock like the rest of us. He is in college now and comes back every year to see coach. It won’t be the same without him. Please let us know when the services will be. We will miss you coach.

  4. Robertgun says

    always think back fondly of the days we played ball in high school. Jeff the kind of guy I was happy to block for. Sorry I missed touching
    base with him, more than a quick hello at our last reunion. Say hello to
    Butch, Mike and Steve, my friend.

  5. victor solano says

    the best coach and the best friend, we are all gonna miss you, R.I.P coach jeff Hesselmeyer 

  6. Charlie Roberts says

    RIP, Jeff.  You always gave me room to do my job, and for that, I tried extra hard to do the best I could.  You’re gone too soon, but I trust they have X’s and O’s where you are now. 

  7. RIP Coach Hess. May the Lord be with you and your family.

  8. Joseempey says

    Hess is gone way too soon. I know how much he loved coaching and I know the effect he had on a lot of young men. He was a big good guy and will be sorely missed.

    • Dshiellsii says

      I am assuming this is Joe Empey. This is Dan Shiells responding to say that the services for Jeff will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Santa Barbara cemetary, the same place where the services were held for Jennie. It is a small venue and intended to be relatively limited in size but I thought of you as someone who should be told.

  9. Melinda_angel93 says

    I cant believe coach Hess is gone.
    I remember he let me stay in his P.E class b/c i didnt know where to go since it was my first day at SMHS.
    Even though it looked like he gave me mean looks when i was pregnant i will still miss him.
    R.I.P Coach Hess
    We will miss you dearly <|3

  10. I still can’t believe Coach is gone. :( He will be deeply missed by all the people he touched, including myself. He was everything you could want in a good coach and I was glad I was able to experience part of that. I wasn’t part of the varsity team he coached during the last season at SM, but he coached the offseason too, which I was a part of. Luckily, for me I got to know him. And behind that tough impression he gave me at first, underneath he was really an honestly good guy.
    I’ll miss you coach and all the laughs you gave me. :( Football won’t be the same without you here at San Marcos. Rest in peace.

  11. Hektikhit says

    Wow! cant believe Coach Hess is gone. I remember when i was a young sophmore who had just finished a transfer from another school IN 2001. I had very little experience in playing football but still wanted to try out for Varsity Football at Dos pueblos High School. Coach Hesselmeyer was The Head Coach at the time and ofcourse the kind heart that he always had, said Hector your ARE playing Varsity here at Dos Pueblos! Naturally i was very exited and went on to play 2 years of Varsity Football.( THANKS TO COACH ) Something that changed my life completely! cause i was heading in the wrong direction and thanks to Dos Pueblos Football and Coach Hess i was able get back on track. So To You JEFF HESSELMEYER, REST IN PEACE AND THANKS FOR EVERYTHING YOU HAVE DONE FOR ME AND COUNTLESS OTHER PEOPLE. YOU WILL BE MISSED AND SURE HOPE YOU ARE RESTING IN HEAVEN!

  12. Hektikhit,

    That’s a terrific tribute to Coach Hess. The fact you’re living a productive life gives meaning to Coach’s life and all the lives he touched. I am sure if he would be proud of you, and it makes it a little easier for all of us who knew him to know there are people like you who benefited from him.

  13. This is one of the biggest shocks I’ve experienced in my twelve years coaching at SM. It’s been a rough few years in public education with losing good teachers to lay offs, losing good coaches to better paying jobs but losing a teacher like Hess this way is an absolute stunner. I did not know Hess before he came to SM but knew who he was. I have never met a more humble, generous and complimentary coach than Hess. Kudos to Coach Jahadhmy for bringing Hess to SM and to Hess for accepting the challenge of coaching our youth. Football requires a lot of hard work, sacrifice and creativity and Hess was a master at all of these. He was human but he admitted his mistakes and always treated his players, parents and colleagues with the utmost respect. I learned so much from him from watching him coach, listening to him speak with players and students and talking to him about my own games. I will miss his gentle, calming influence at our school, talking to him in the coaches’ office and wishing him the best before our football games. RIP Hess. We’ll all miss you…