Former Washington State Coach Will Sue School Over 'Unlawful' Firing for Refusing Vaccine

Former Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich plans to sue after he was fired for defying a state mandate to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the Associated Press reported.

Rolovich's attorney, Brian Fahling, said in a statement that his termination was "unlawful" and an attack against his Catholic beliefs.

The lawsuit will present an account of what Fahling described as Washington State athletic director Pat Chun's dishonesty and "animus towards Coach Rolovich's sincerely held religious beliefs." Fahling said in the statement that Chun's behavior was "discriminatory" and caused "immeasurable harm" to Rolovich and his family.

Rolovich and four of his assistants were terminated Monday after failing to follow the governor's requirement that all state employees get vaccinated. After he was fired, the former coach was escorted to his car by campus police and not permitted to speak to his team or visit his office, Fahling said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Washington State Coach Firing
Former Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich plans to sue after he was fired for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 despite a state mandate. Above, Rolovich watches during the first half of a game against Stanford in Pullman, Washington, on October 16, 2021. Young Kwak/AP Photo

Rolovich had requested a religious exemption, but it was denied on Monday, the state's vaccination deadline.

"The institution also indicated that even if the exemption had been granted, no accommodation would have been made," Fahling said in the statement.

The statement didn't specify Rolovich's religious grounds for seeking an exemption and the coach declined to discuss details in recent weeks.

Pope Francis and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have stated that all COVID-19 vaccines are morally acceptable and that Catholics have a duty, responsibility or obligation to be vaccinated. However, some Catholics still oppose vaccination.

Statewide, about 1,800 workers have been fired, resigned or retired because of the governor's mandate, state officials said. Rolovich was the highest-paid state employee in Washington at $3.2 million per year. He was fired for cause and will not be paid the balance of his contract.

Rolovich was hired from Hawaii two years ago, after Mike Leach left for Mississippi State, and led Washington State to a 1-3 record in the Pac-12 in a 2020 season cut short because of the pandemic. He finished with a 5-6 record in Pullman.

He was replaced for the remainder of the season by Jake Dickert, the Cougars' defensive coordinator who was elevated to acting head coach.

Washington State (4-3) hosts BYU (5-2) on Saturday.

Washington State Athletic Director
Washington State University head football coach Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants were fired on Monday for refusing a mandate that all state employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, making him the first major college coach to lose his job over vaccination status. Above, athletic director Pat Chun talks on the phone as he walks on October 18, 2021, near the Cougar Football Complex building in Pullman, Washington. Ted S. Warren/AP Photo