Santa Monica College football coach Gifford Lindheim, who led the Corsairs to the Pacific Conference championship and a bid to the American Championship Bowl this season, has been named American Division Pacific Conference Coach of the Year.

Lindheim took over as interim head coach of the Corsairs in 2009, just after the team had been put on probation for residency violations.

As head coach, he has engineered an impressive turnaround at SMC, steering the Corsairs to an 8-3 overall, 6-0 conference record this year. After earning the Pacific Conference Championship of the Southern California Football Association with a 32-21 victory over West Los Angeles College, SMC lost 42-28 to East Los Angeles College in the American Bowl game Nov. 19.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in a very short time in our football program,” Lindheim said. “I’m happy for the players that put their faith in what we’re trying to build, and the assistant coaches who share their expertise and spend tireless hours for little money.”

He added, “I’m thankful for the strong administrative support. I’m proud to be able to add to the many successes (academic and athletic) of our amazing college. The awards (Conference Champions and Coach of the Year) are organizational awards that reflect on all of our hard work. That’s what’s so cool about it.”

Lindheim has had a long career as a player and coach. He played at University High School in West Los Angeles, at San Francisco State University and with the Madrid Bears in the Spanish Football League.

He has held assistant coaching positions at the University of Nevada, Whittier College, El Camino College, West Los Angeles College, University High School and Venice High School, but SMC is his first head coaching position.

Lindheim said his coaching philosophy is to combine firmness with fairness and to cultivate academic as well as athletic success, character growth, a strong work ethic and teamwork.

“With our academic support team, each of our players has a plan to matriculate from SMC to the next level,” he said. “We treat our players with respect, and we expect our players to go out and represent our program with class.”