Spokane, Washington (AP) – Washington State soccer coach Nick Rolovich and four of his aides fired Monday for refusing the state’s mandate to vaccinate all employees against COVID-19, making him the first major college coach to lose his job due to vaccination. Status.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, had set a Monday deadline to vaccinate thousands of state employees, including coach Cougars, against the coronavirus. Rolovitch applied for a religious exemption.
Defense coordinator Jake Dickert will be promoted to acting coach and his first game will be on Saturday at home to the University of British Columbia, the school said late Monday.
“This is a disappointing day for our football programme,” 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 people on our team.”
Rolovitch could not be reached for comment.
The 42-year-old Rolovich was the highest-paid government employee with an annual salary of more than $3 million on a contract to 2025. He had said he would not be vaccinated but did not specify his reasons. He was the only unvaccinated coach in the Pac-12 and wore a mask during matches.
The university said assistant coaches Ricky Lugo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzman and Mark Webber were fired for refusing to vaccinate.
Across the country, several college football coaches have publicly called for the vaccination, including Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney and Alabama’s Nick Saban. Mississippi State coach Lynn Kevin said not receiving a vaccination would be irresponsible and he boasts that his team is 100% vaccinated.
Several coaches have talked about their teams’ high vaccination rates, even though schools are not obligated to share these numbers.
Unlike last season, when major college football was swept by COVID-19 cases, and matches were postponed and canceled weekly, no matches needed to be rescheduled due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Rolovich was hired from Hawaii two years ago, after Mike Leach left for Mississippi State, and led Washington State to a record 1-3 Pac-12 in the 2020 season that was cut short by the pandemic. Washington State has won its past three games 4-3 this season, including a 34-31 win over Stanford last Saturday. He finished with 5-6 at the Pullman campus in southeast Washington.
Rolovich revealed in July that he will not be vaccinated and cannot attend Pac-12 media day in person because of it.
He said in mid-August that he intended to follow the new mandate requiring vaccinations for every government employee, but he has repeatedly refused to say how to do so.
After refusing to reveal his plans for weeks, Rolovich confirmed on October 9 that he was seeking a religious exemption from the mandate. He did not specify his religious beliefs.
Rolovitch needed to prove his sincere religious belief that prevented him from being vaccinated in an exemption request. The application was presented to a committee that examined the applications without knowing the names of the applicants.
To continue training, Rolovitch needed to obtain religious exemption and also have Chun decide that Rolovich could do his job while keeping the public safe. In addition to his work as a coach, Rolovich oversaw the youth football program and participated in promotional events and fundraising.
Rolovich was fired for a reason, which means the university does not have to honor the rest of his contract, despite the potential for lawsuits over the decision. The Washington State Department of Sports is currently facing a shortfall of more than $30 million.
Deckert is in his second season as a defensive coordinator for Washington State and came to Pullman after three seasons in Wyoming. He was not a former coach.
Washington State President Kirk Schulze said nearly 90% of WSU employees and 97% of students have been vaccinated.
The vaccine issue has permeated all season, splitting Washington State fans and providing a constant distraction.
The players defended their coach as the season progressed. “Stop hating Rollo. We love him,” midfielder Jayden de Laura told a fringe reporter after Saturday’s win.
Wide receiver Travel Harris praised Brolovich after the game for being a “player coach.”
“He’s a coach we all love to play for,” Harris said.