Nick Rolovich fired as coach at Washington State after refusing vaccine under state mandate

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Washington State has fired football coach Nick Rolovich after he declined to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a state mandate that required it unless he was approved for an exemption.

The university confirmed it Monday evening and said four assistant coaches also were being fired for not being in compliance with the mandate: defensive tackles coach Ricky Logo, assistant head coach John Richardson, co-offensive coordinator Craig Stutzmann and offensive line coach Mark Weber.

They and other state employees all faced a deadline Monday to save their jobs — either be fully vaccinated or obtain approval for an exemption. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, who is vaccinated, now becomes interim head coach on a makeshift staff of a team that has five regular-season games remaining, including Saturday against Brigham Young.

“This is a disheartening day for our football program,” WSU athletics director Pat Chun said in a statement. “Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team. The leadership on our football team is filled with young men of character, selflessness and resiliency and we are confident these same attributes will help guide this program as we move forward.”

Nick Rolovich has a 33-33 record over parts of six season as coach at Hawaii and Washington State.

Nick Rolovich has a 33-33 record over parts of six season as coach at Hawaii and Washington State.

To be in compliance with the mandate, Rolovich had made a request for a religious exemption. He first confirmed on Oct. 9 that he was seeking such an exemption after USA TODAY Sports revealed he had filed an application for it and was not vaccinated, according to June Jones, his former coach at the University of Hawaii. Jones told USA TODAY Sports he had pleaded with Rolovich to get vaccinated for the sake of his job and others.

DAN WOLKEN: No sympathy for Rolovich. Skipping vaccine was his call.

Instead, Rolovich rejected that advice and now is no longer employed, culminating a bizarre, self-inflicted career nosedive, less than two years after he arrived with promise on the Palouse in eastern Washington. After finishing 1-3 in first season during the pandemic last year, his team is 4-3 this season after winning its last three games, including a 34-31 win Saturday against Stanford.

His contract at WSU ran through June 2025 and included terms about how he could be fired for legal cause, such as failing to follow university rules. The university did not immediately comment on that but said in a statement it had initiated the separation process with the unvaccinated coaches based on the terms of their respective contracts, effective immediately.

Rolovich, 42, did not elaborate on his religious reasons for not being vaccinated. He even declined to publicly confirm whether he identifies as Catholic after coming from a Catholic family background and attending a Catholic high school.

Meanwhile, his vaccination status became a growing national news story after he announced on Twitter in July that he had elected not to get vaccinated, making him the only major college head football coach to say so publicly. After that announcement, he then declined to discuss his vaccination status despite frequent questions about it amid a state mandate that put his high-profile job at risk during a public health crisis.

In the end, it’s not clear whose decision at WSU ultimately ousted him. According to university protocol, religious exemption requests are considered by a committee that determines whether to grant them without knowing the identity of the applicants.

If the committee denied such a request, the applicant then could be fired. But even if the committee approved such a request, the applicant then faced another hurdle: The applicant’s supervisor had to determine whether the unvaccinated employee would be able to perform his or her duties without risking the health of the community. If the answer to that was no, the applicant could be fired in that case, too.

If Rolovich’s application reached this stage, the decision-maker ostensibly would have been Chun, possibly in consultation with university president Kirk Schulz.

The university had been dogged by the public-relations headache that Rolovich’s vaccination status had become and didn’t say who made the decision.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenboer @Schrotenboer. E-mail: [email protected]

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nick Rolovich fired as Washington State coach after refusing vaccine



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