by Kevin Burton
Former Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich will sue the state of Washington after his firing with cause for refusing the Covid 19 vaccine, ESPN reported.
Monday was the deadline set by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for state employees to be vaccinated. Rolovich and four assistant coaches were fired Monday for non-compliance.
Surely a number of lesser-known employees refused. The Rolovich case will be the high-profile story that everybody follows.
The second-year coach is paid $3.2 million annually. He was the state’s highest paid employee. He had three years remaining on his contract.
The school denied a religious exemption based on Catholicism, claimed by Rolovich. Washington State used a blind evaluation process for exemption requests, meaning the panel knew neither the names nor job titles of the requestors, ESPN reported.
Washington State is 4-3 on the field, its program not worthy of special attention other than this court case. The Cougars are scheduled to face 5-2 BYU at home at 12:30 Pacific Time Saturday. Defensive Coordinator Jake Dickert has been named the interim coach.
“This is 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,” athletic director Pat Chun said. “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.”
Chun called Rolovich’s firing a for-cause separation, noting that he lost his eligibility for employment through “noncompliance.”
Rolovich’s attorney, Brian Fahling, cited “discriminatory and vindictive behavior” by Chun and said the firing was “unjust and unlawful.”
“It is a tragic and damning commentary on our culture and more specifically on Chun that Coach Rolovich has been derided, demonized and ultimately fired from his job merely for being devout in his Catholic faith,” Fahling wrote in a statement to ESPN.
“The saga over Rolovich’s vaccination status first took public stage in July when the second-year coach announced he would participate remotely in the Pac-12’s football media day,” reported David Cobb of CBS Sports. “The league required in-person participants to be vaccinated.”
“‘I have elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private,’ Rolovich said in a statement at the time.”
“Rolovich later said he was not against vaccinations, adding that he respected and supported ‘all the work being done by the state of Washington, who as a state has one of the highest percentages of vaccinations in the country.’ In August, he stated that he planned on following the governor’s mandate.”
WSU president Kirk Schultz said the coach’s stance takes away from the school’s pro-vaccination message.
“It certainly skews the perception of our message,” Schulz told the New York Times. “At most universities, people pay attention to what the university president, the football coach, the basketball coach and the athletic director have to say — that’s just the reality. People look at them for leadership because they’re highly visible and highly compensated. It doesn’t help when you have people who are contrary to the direction we’re going.”
Assistant coaches Ricky Logo (defensive tackles), John Richardson (assistant head coach, cornerbacks), Craig Stutzmann (co-offensive coordinator, quarterbacks) and Mark Weber (offensive line) were also fired Monday, according to CBS.
It appears the players have the coach’s back on this issue.
“Starting quarterback Jayden de Laura voiced support for the embattled coach on behalf of Washington State players following the Cougars’ victory over Oregon State on Oct. 9,” CBS reported. ‘Players, we have no issue with Coach Rolo,’ de Laura said. ‘We have no issue with any of our coaches. We respect their decisions. I feel like it’s just the guys covering us, they’re trying to dig a hole on our Cougar football team.’”
Just as a good quarterback knows what to do when he reads signs of a blitz, all parties are well prepared for this trench warfare I assure you. You could see this legal storm coming from afar. I would be shocked if the court documents aren’t very close to complete already.