HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Wearing a gray suit and red tie that may have never even made it out of a suitcase during his four-year coaching tenure at Hawaii, Nick Rolovich was introduced Thursday as the new head coach of the Washington State Cougars.
“This isn’t a rebuilding deal,” said Washington State University Athletic Director Pat Chun. “We are going forward with the football program.”
Holding up a red jersey with his name stitched onto the back, Rolovich went into detail about what attracted him to Pullman ― not the weather, but the ‘Cougar Climate’ ― and how he planned to immediately compete for the Apple Cup, the school’s famed rivalry with the University of Washington.
“The fan base, the students, they make it such a hard place to play football for their opponents,” Rolovich said. “The flags waving all over town. You can’t go anywhere without seeing them.”
As he embarks on his journey as the leader at Washington State, Rolo told reporters he planned on bringing his iteration of the run-and-shoot offense with him. Recruiting Washington and the Pacific Northwest will also be a priority for his program.
Rolovich also took the time to thank his supporters at the University of Hawaii for helping him reach the new career milestone.
“It would be wrong if I didn’t say mahalo to Hawaii for giving me this opportunity, and every opportunity that I’ve had in my life,” said Rolovich, who played for the University of Hawaii before embracing a career in coaching. “It will always be a part of my heart, and I’m very grateful for the time and the aloha spirit they gave me.”
He also posted a note late Wednesday night thanking Hawaii football fans on Twitter.
“Every victory was special and only possible with the tremendous dedication from so many people throughout the program and fan base,” he wrote.
Despite the kind words, a video of Rolovich being introduced to his new team on Wednesday sparked some backlash on social media, where fans and former players took offense to some of Rolovich’s words.
“I am honored to coach you guys,” Rolovich told his new team. “I am standing in front of a room of the best athletes I have ever had the ability to coach.”
“See you and your ‘best athletes’ in the (Las) Vegas Bowl,” one player responded on Twitter.
While little is known about the University of Hawaii’s search to replace Rolovich, local media attending Thursday’s press conference reported that several of Rolovich’s former assistants in Manoa ― including Brian Smith and Craig Stutzmann, both who are believed to be candidates for the job ― were in attendance.
A timeline for an announcement on Rolovich’s replacement is currently unknown.