Water polo coach fired from GHS, banned from UF campus

David Huelsman
Former UF employee David Huelsman was banned from campus for three years on Tuesday.
Courtesy of UFPD

Gainesville High School (GHS) cut ties with its embattled water polo coach, a spokeswoman said, on the same day the university formally banned him from all campus properties for three years. 

The GHS principal notified the school’s water polo coach of eight years, David Huelsman, he will not be returning for the next school year, according to Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman Jackie Johnson.  

Johnson did not cite any specific reason for GHS principal Dan Ferguson’s decision, but it came less than 24 hours after Mainstreet Daily News published a detailed account describing the coach’s firing by the University of Florida after being allegedly “overly touchy” with his athletes. Ferguson did not respond to a phone call, voicemail and email asking to discuss his decision.  

Become A Member

Mainstreet does not have a paywall, but pavement-pounding journalism is not free. Join your neighbors who make this vital work possible.

University records say Huelsman, 43, was fired as an IT analyst from UF two weeks after a report was made alleging he pressured athletes into sharing the same bed with him on away matches. His termination letter said he was “not in good standing” with the university but did not provide any explanation for the decision.  

In an earlier interview, Huelsman denied the accusations and told Mainstreet he believed the report was made by a former athlete with a vendetta against him. 

Only members of the university’s men’s water polo team were involved in the university report. Johnson said she had never heard any “concerns, allegations or complaints” about Huelsman’s behavior toward GHS students.  

On Tuesday, Huelsman was issued a trespass warning “from all UF properties” by university police. He is banned from visiting any UF property until June 11, 2027.  

Huelsman has not been charged with any crime. He has no prior criminal record.  

University police captain Latrell Simmons said he could not immediately explain the university’s justification for banning Huelsman. University spokeswoman Cynthia Roldan declined to comment on the decision. 

Huelsman did not respond to a phone call, email, multiple texts and a voicemail to discuss his firing or ban from campus.  

Kyriaki Kaplanidou is the mother of Vassilis Johnston, who played water polo from 2020 to 2024 with GHS. She said it’s too early to know what the future looks for the high school club, but she struggled to immediately think of anyone who could take Huelsman’s place as head coach.  

GHS athletic director Phillip Knight said, while Huelsman founded the high school water polo team and has been the school’s only head coach, he isn’t concerned about finding a replacement.  

“We’ve had coaches come and go,” Knight said.  

The season begins in winter. He said he believes there is plenty of time to find a replacement.  

If a new coach isn’t hired, Kaplanidou said she hopes a few UF athletes may be able to help run the program. Knight said there is precedent for using UF students to assist in coaching at GHS, if needed. 

A spokesman for the Gainesville-based Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA), Ryan Harrison, did not immediately respond to a phone message asking to discuss Huelsman’s case. The FHSAA governs all high school sports across Florida. 

Huelsman started coaching baseball at GHS in 2007. By 2012, he was the swim and dive coach. In 2016, he became the water polo coach. 

His coaching with GHS was not a full-time position, and he was paid in full at the end of each season, Johnson said. The school district paid Huelsman $4,272 as a supplementary employee for his work coaching the boys and girls teams for the 2023-2024 water polo season, Johnson said.  

Huelsman is widely regarded as a key figure in establishing water polo in North Central Florida. He is the president and head coach of Gator Water Polo Inc., a non-profit that operates youth teams and instructional camps for scores of players between 10 and 18 years old, according to its website. It routinely hosts tournaments to grow the sport in Gainesville. 

Gator Water Polo generated more than $316,000 in annual revenues, according to copies of the most recent financial records publicly available, including $112,600 in athletic grants from Alachua County between 2021 to 2023. Records show Huelsman was not paid in his role with the organization. 

Editor’s note: Matthew Cupelli (mcupelli@ufl.eduis a rising senior in the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. He reported this article under the supervision of Prof. Ted Bridis, who teaches investigative reporting in the college and runs the Fresh Take Florida news service. 

Enjoying our local sports coverage? Get Mike Ridaught's twice weekly sports newsletter in your inbox.
Sports Newsletter Form
Notify of
1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

No allegations from GHS players. GHS… jumping to conclusions. This has become a witch hunt.