Washington State's Nick Rolovich Fired After Not Complying with COVID Vaccine Mandate

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVOctober 19, 2021

Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Stanford, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Pullman, Wash.(AP Photo/Young Kwak)
AP Photo/Young Kwak

Washington State announced it has fired head football coach Nick Rolovich with cause for not complying with the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which went into effect Monday.

Four staffers have been dismissed as well for not complying with the mandate.

"This is a disheartening day for our football program," athletic director Pat Chun said. "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."

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee issued a proclamation requiring most state employees to be vaccinated.

Rolovich announced July 21 he had yet to receive the vaccine and kept the reasons behind his decision private.

Nick Rolovich @NickRolovich

<a href="https://t.co/WW1qNACPBc">pic.twitter.com/WW1qNACPBc</a>

Speaking with reporters in August, the 42-year-old said he'd follow Washington's mandate but didn't specify whether that meant he'd get vaccinated.

Former Hawaii head coach June Jones, for whom Rolovich was an assistant, told USA Today's Brent Schrotenboer that Rolovich was seeking a religious exemption from the mandate.

With the deadline looming, he remained unsure as to whether he'd continue to lead the Cougars through this week.

"I'm gonna come to work tomorrow," he told reporters. "... I don't think this is in my hands. So I've been settled for a long time on it, and I just believe it's going to work out the right way."

Washington State beat Stanford on Saturday to improve to 4-3. Rolovich's players appeared to sense his tenure could be coming to an end since they gave him a Gatorade bath on the sidelines immediately after the game.

Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will replace Rolovich on an interim basis. His first game in charge will come Saturday at home to BYU.

Washington State will presumably wait until the season concludes before launching a full coaching search.

The program has enjoyed success under Mike Price and Mike Leach, but the years preceding and following their tenures illustrate how difficult it can be to maintain a winner in Pullman.

The Cougars are often overshadowed by in-state rival Washington, and they haven't claimed a conference championship since 2002. In addition, despite making some investments to keep up in the FBS arms race, the $3 million annual salary WSU paid Rolovich was good for 51st in the country and 10th-highest in the Pac-12.

Finding the right replacement for Rolovich will be a tall order for Chun.