Former UH football coach Nick Rolovich fired from WSU for failing to comply with vaccine mandate

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 1:42 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 18, 2021 at 5:20 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former UH football coach Nick Rolovich has been relieved of his duties as head football coach at Washington State for failing to comply with a vaccine mandate for state employees.

WSU Director of Athletics called it a “disheartening day for our football program.”

“Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team,” Chun said, in a news release. “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.”

News of Rolovich’s ouster as head coach was first reported early Monday afternoon by The Oregonian, and a meeting between WSU athletics director Pat Chun and the rest of the Cougar football team was scheduled for later in the day, according to other local media reports.

Rolovich had applied for a religious exemption to the vaccine mandate. All exemption requests were presented to a “blinded” committee that processed them without knowing the names of the applicants whose requests they were reviewing.

The school’s unvaccinated assistants have also been fired.

Rolovich has not publicly discussed the vaccine status of any of his assistants, but several of them ― including former Hawaii assistant coaches Craig Stutzmann, Mark Weber and Ricky Logo ― were seen wearing masks on the sideline of Saturday’s 34-31 victory against Stanford.

Coaches who have been vaccinated are not required to wear masks on the sidelines, according to Spokesman-Review reporter Theo Lawson, though their choice to do so is not necessarily an indication that they are unvaccinated.

Rolovich, who also played quarterback for Hawaii during the early days of June Jones’ tenure in Manoa, began making waves with his refusal to receive a COVID-19 vaccine back in July, when he was the only Pac-12 football coach forced to attend the league’s media day remotely.

The league had previously instituted a policy where anyone attending the event, including school personnel and media members, would be required to have received the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I have elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private,” Rolovich said in a statement over the summer. “While I have made my own decision, I respect that every individual ― including our coaches, staff and student-athletes ― can make his or her own decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. I will not comment further on my decision.”

He has mostly stayed true to that promise, consistently declining to elaborate further when asked by reporters about his vaccine stance or his vaccination status.

On Saturday, after the Cougars win against Stanford in what would be his 11th and final appearance with Washington State, Rolovich told reporters that he was still waiting to find out about his exemption request.

“I don’t think this is in my hands,” Rolovich said Saturday night.

His remarks to reporters came just minutes after he received a victory Gatorade bath from his players, who knew there was a chance Saturday would be their final game with Rolovich on the sideline.

Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert was expected to be named Washington State’s interim football coach, according to ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura.

This story will be updated.

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