CM – Nick Rolovich is sidelined as Washington State football coach after failing to comply with the state vaccination mandate


Despite the Cougars’ recent breakthrough under their sophomore football coach, Rolovich’s tenure will be remembered beyond the unprecedented completion – and the controversial personal choice that ultimately led to his resignation.

Three months ago he drew his line in the sand and did not move and refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The school announced on Monday that Rolovich, along with four of his WSU -Assistant lost their job after failing a Washington mandate that required the state’s education staff to either be fully vaccinated or to have a waiver by Monday.

Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will be the interim coach for the remaining five games of the regular season cougars and the WSU has been looking for a second coach since the beginning of 2020.

For the same reasons, the assistants Craig Stutzmann (Co-Offensive Coordinator / Quarterbacks), Mark Weber (Offensive Line), Ricky Logo ( Defensive tackles) and John Richardson (cornerbacks) sacked.

“It’s daunting to be here today. Our soccer team is suffering, our WSU community is broken, « said sporting director Pat Chun in a press conference on Monday evening.

 » To be at this point today is unacceptable on so many levels and is in contrast to the WSU experience, that our student athletes deserve so richly. I am sad for our soccer alumni and all the proud cougs around the world for the breaks that have occurred over the past few months. We need to bring compassion, empathy and unity back into our WSU community, and this healing process needs to begin immediately. « 

Rolovich was fired for an important reason because, according to a school release, » he missed the duties of head coach at Washington State University can fulfill more « . That means the school owes Rolovich no remainder of his contract, which ran until June 2025.

Chun said the university had ruled that it was not possible to fulfill Rolovich’s exemption request, an indication that the exemption request of the Coach may have been approved by a blind committee. If so, Chun should have determined whether Rolovich could safely perform his duties. Chun and WSU President Kirk Schulz declined to elaborate on it.

The consequences of this bizarre situation will probably be immense. Rolovich’s mid-season exit puts the future of the WSU program in murky waters.

« It’s problematic, » said Chun. “We worked on contingency plans. Nick gave us some information about some of these contingency plans. We’ll be working with the staff, with Trainer Dickert and (Offensive Coordinator) Brian Smith to decide who we can bring in to help.

« It’s a very detailed, complicated offensive, this run-and- Shoot. And there aren’t many people on the streets to find the right coaches who can help. We worked on it for a couple of weeks just in case. ”

Although Rolovich, 42, was technically under no obligation to provide the private details of his reasoning for rejecting the vaccine, his defiant demeanor and silence rubbed many into them wrong direction.

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The situation turned into a complex political debate – at the national level – and a public relations crisis for the university almost immediately.

Rolovich’s supporters praised him for standing firm. However, he has been heavily criticized for his position, which was viewed as selfish and contrary to his highly paid leadership role at a large research institution.

« It would be naive of me to say that this does not affect the perception of Washington State University – certainly in the state, with prospective students, with donors, « Schulz said, noting that about 90% of WSU employees are vaccinated, and there are only seven active coronavirus cases at the school.

 » Within Washington State University, there has been a lot of frustration from our faculty and staff’s point of view that such a prominent figure decided not to get vaccinated. « 

 » We’ll likely have some people who choose, the WSU, possibly not to support financially because they do not support the decision, « said Schulz. “I got an email about 45 minutes ago from an alum saying that we decided that he would make a donation to two colleges tonight.” Rolovich avoided the questions for a few months how he would fulfill the mandate. He simply reiterated that he would « follow the mandate » announced by Governor Jay Inslee on August 18.

« We had talks months ago, » said Chun. “He was determined in his demeanor and he was ready to make a choice. That decision didn’t bring him into line with this governor’s proclamation, and that’s why we’re here today. « 

After the WSU’s victory over Oregon State on October 9, Rolovich confirmed that he had requested a religious exception after June Jones, his mentor and former trainer at the University of Hawaii, leaked the information to USA Today.

Rolovich grew up in a Catholic household and attended a Catholic high school north of San Francisco, but declined to publicly speaking out on his religious ideologies.

The Cougars defeated Stanford on Saturday with a dramatic finish 34-31. WSU players showered Rolovich in a Gatorade bath and shared several long hugs with the coach on the field. A social media video from the WSU’s sports department showed how the cougs sang “Rolo” in the locker room after the game. It certainly felt like the WSU was celebrating some kind of final.

Rolovich said during a post-game media session that he was waiting for an email to clarify whether his religious exemption would be granted. He said he didn’t know if he would get the chance to end his first full season at Pullman.

Rolovich had been committed to his stance « for a long time » and believed the release process would « work properly » – which meant that he would keep his job.

« If (Chun) doesn’t want that, I have to go on, » said Rolovich. “But I like to be here. I like to be the trainer here. I love these kids. I just have faith in (the process). ”

The athletes supported their trainer. Receiver Travell Harris and Tackle Abe Lucas praised Rolovich for his player-first style. Quarterback Jayden de Laura wanted to speak on the matter earlier this month.

« Player, we have no problem with coach Rolo, » he said after the OSU game. “We don’t have any problems with any of our coaches. We respect their decisions.

Chun implied that Rolovich had left campus and not spoken to the team after the two had met the previous Monday. Chun and Dickert turned to the players.

« They didn’t deserve that, » said Chun. “This is a real heartbreak. Unfortunately, this 2021 team and upper class have a lot of experience in enduring adversity.

“Their reaction is what one would expect from a bunch of college-aged young people who have lost their head coach and a number of position coaches . … They handled it mature, but no doubt there was a lot of disappointment, sadness and anger. « 

Chun was asked if any players had signaled to him that they would not play because of the change in leadership.

Rolovich became Hired in January 2020 after four seasons in Hawaii to take over Mike Leach, who led the Cougars for eight mostly successful years.

The new boss seemed a perfect fit for the Pullman School. He had the flair and the likeable qualities that signaled a promising future at WSU.

Rolovich’s attitude was well received. He is considered a keen offensive spirit and his unique style – also known as « run-and-shoot » – should enable a smooth transition from Leach’s Air Raid.

« I take full responsibility and responsibility for the hiring of Nick, » said Chun. « In January 2020, based on all the information we had at the time, including extensive references and discussions with knowledgeable football experts, we believed we had found the perfect solution and a long-term solution for Washington State football. »

With his personality and some charitable donations to companies in the area in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, he quickly won over the fan base.

Rolovich tweeted that he had chosen not to coronavirus for « private » reasons – Vaccine and unable to attend Pac-12’s annual media day in Los Angeles due to the event’s vaccine needs. He is the only major college football coach to publicly oppose a COVID-19 vaccine.

Rolovich faces a lawsuit from former wide receiver Kassidy Woods who claims his rights were violated last year, when he was kicked off the team after joining the WeAreUnited player movement and complaining about potential COVID-19 exposure.

Rolovich finishes with a 5-6 record at WSU. The Cougs only played four games last season, and three were canceled due to COVID-19.

His 11-game stint at the top of the WSU’s football program faces Jackie Sherrill (1976) and Warren Powers (1977 ) for the shortest tenure in Coug’s history.

His discharge comes amid the Cougars’ best play stretch in three years. They sit at 4-3 after recovering from a difficult start and recording three straight wins.

« I ask Cougs from the bottom of my heart to unite on this soccer team and give them the support and love to that they need to get through this season, « said Chun. « Now, more than ever, you need to feel the unique support and love that comes with being part of this community. »

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