Washington state fired football coach Nick Rolovich after refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine despite a state warrant that required it unless approved for an exemption.
The university confirmed this on Monday night and said four assistant coaches were also fired for failing to meet the mandate: defensive tackles coach Ricky Logo, assistant head coach John Richardson, offensive coordinator Craig Stutzmann and offensive line coach Mark Weber.
They and other state employees all faced a deadline on Monday to save their jobs – either being fully immunized or getting approval for an exemption. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, who is vaccinated, now becomes interim head coach on a makeshift squad of a team that still has five regular season games, including Saturday against Brigham Young.
“It is a discouraging day for our football program,” WSU athletic 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 of our football team is filled with young men of character, selflessness and resilience and we believe that these same attributes will help guide this program as we move forward. “
To be in accordance with the mandate, Rolovich had requested a religious exemption. He first confirmed on Oct. 9 that he was seeking such an exemption after USA TODAY Sports revealed he had applied and had not been vaccinated, according to June Jones, his former college coach. from Hawaii. Jones told USA TODAY Sports that he begged Rolovich to get the shot for his job and for others.
DAN WOLKEN:No sympathy for Rolovich. Skipping the vaccine was his call.
Instead, Rolovich rejected that advice and is no longer employed, resulting in a bizarre and self-inflicted career slump, less than two years after arriving with the Pledge on the Palouse in eastern Washington. After finishing 1-3 in the first season in the pandemic last year, his team are 4-3 this season having won their last three games, including a 34-31 victory on Saturday against Stanford.
His contract at the WSU lasted until June 2025 and included conditions on how he could be fired for a legal cause, such as violating college rules. The university did not immediately comment on this, but said in a statement that it had initiated the separation process with the unvaccinated coaches based on the terms of their respective contracts, with immediate effect.
Rolovich, 42, did not explain his religious reasons for not being vaccinated. He even refused to publicly confirm whether he identified as Catholic after coming from a Catholic family and attending a Catholic high school.
Meanwhile, his vaccine status became a growing national hot topic after announcing on Twitter in July that he had chosen not to be vaccinated, making him the only major college football coach to say so publicly. After the announcement, he then declined to discuss his immunization status despite frequent questions about it as part of a state mandate that put his high-level job at risk during a public health crisis.
Ultimately, it’s unclear what decision at the WSU ultimately ousted him. According to university protocol, requests for religious exemption are examined by a committee which determines whether to grant them without knowing the identity of the candidates.
If the committee rejected such a request, then the applicant could be terminated. But even if the committee approved such a request, then the applicant faced another hurdle: the applicant’s supervisor had to determine whether the unvaccinated employee would be able to perform their duties without risking the health of the community. If the answer was no, the applicant could also be terminated in this case.
If Rolovich’s candidacy reached this stage, the decision-maker would apparently have been Chun, possibly in consultation with university president Kirk Schulz.
The university had been harassed by the public relations puzzle of Rolovich’s immunization status and did not say who made the decision.