Nick Rolovich's Vaccine Stance Was 'Unacceptable,' WSU Athletics Director Says

Washington State athletics director Pat Chun publicly rebuked Nick Rolovich while announcing the football coach's firing for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Rolovich was fired by the university after failing to meet a Monday deadline for state employees to get vaccinated unless they have an approved exemption for medical or religious reasons.

Rolovich's request for a religious exemption to the mandate was denied, Chun said at a news conference announcing the firings of Rolovich and four football assistant coaches who also refused the vaccine.

"It's disheartening to be here today," he said. "Our football team is hurting, our WSU community is fractured. Today will have a lasting impact on the young men on our team, and the remaining coaches and staff."

Washington State University parts ways with former #HawaiiFB head coach Nick Rolovich and three other former UH coaches after not meeting the state of Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate https://t.co/A1hTqPGfWN 📝 @c_shimabuku pic.twitter.com/Rq5mVJENsr

— Rob DeMello (@RobDeMelloKHON) October 19, 2021

Chun said Rolovich was thought to be "the perfect fit" for the university when he was hired in January 2020.

"I take full ownership and responsibility for hiring Nick," he said. "In January 2020, based on all the information we had at the time, including extensive references and conversations with knowledgeable football experts, we believed we found the perfect fit, and a long-term solution for Washington State football.

"Unfortunately, we stand here today having to make a transition. To be at this juncture today is unacceptable on so many levels and is antithetical to the WSU experience our student athletes so richly deserve. I'm saddened for our football alumni, and to all the proud Cougs all over the world for the fracturing that has transpired over the past few months."

Rolovich, who earned $3 million a year, had made his feelings about not getting the COVID-19 vaccine clear in July. In a statement posted on Twitter, he said wouldn't get vaccinated "for reasons which will remain private."

pic.twitter.com/WW1qNACPBc

— Nick Rolovich (@NickRolovich) July 21, 2021

"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."

After Washington State's win over Stanford on Saturday, he reiterated his stance that he would not get the vaccine, and indicated that he was waiting on a response to his exemption request.

"I've been settled for a long time on it. I believe it's going to work out the right way," he said, The Associated Press reported. "If that's not what Pat wants, then I guess I've got to move on. But I like being here, I like being the coach here. I love these kids. I've just got faith in it."

Rolovich grew up in a Catholic household and graduated from a Catholic high school in Kentfield, California.

His application for a religious exemption was reviewed by a committee that did not know the applicant's identity to ensure an unbiased process, per the mandate's rules, the station reported.

Washington State University has been contacted for additional comment. Rolovich could not immediately be reached for comment.

Nick Rolovich adjusts his mask
Nick Rolovich, former head coach of the Washington State Cougars, adjusts his mask during their game against the Utah Utes on December 19, 2020 at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. Chris Gardner/Getty Images