Rolovich ‘ineligible to be employed at’ WSU

Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert to take over acting head coach duties

Former+WSU+head+coach+Nick+Rolovich+walks+to+the+sideline+as+a+fan+holds+a+sign+at+him+Sept.+4+at+Martin+Stadium.

COLE QUINN

Former WSU head coach Nick Rolovich walks to the sideline as a fan holds a sign at him Sept. 4 at Martin Stadium.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen sports editor

After 644 days in charge of the WSU football team, head coach Nick Rolovich is out of a job for not following Gov. Jay Inslee’s Proclamation 21-14.1, otherwise known as the state-employee vaccine mandate.

Monday was the deadline for Rolovich to meet the requirements by either receiving the vaccine or being granted an exemption to the vaccine and accommodations to continue his job.

“The non-compliance with this requirement renders [Coach Rolovich] ineligible to be employed at Washington State University and therefore can no longer fulfill the duties as a head coach of our football program effective immediately,” athletic director Pat Chun said Monday evening.

Rolovich was not the only coach to lose his job as co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Craig Stutzmann, defensive tackles coach Ricky Logo, cornerbacks coach John Richardson and offensive line coach Mark Weber were all fired for cause for the same reason as Rolovich.

Chun said he met with Rolovich to deliver the news Monday afternoon and that the coach left immediately after their conversation.

WSU employees went through a blind review process by removing all identifiable personal information from exemption requests in order to attempt to be as fair as possible. 

“I’m appreciative of working at an institution that had a very objective process that was fair and equitable,” Chun said Monday evening. “Every employee was righted to go through this process should they choose not to get vaccinated.”

WSU defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will take over as acting head coach, starting this weekend against BYU.

“Every now and then, we run across a person that you sort of feel has been just preparing for this chance, for this opportunity in their career,” WSU President Kirk Schulz said Tuesday. “That’s what we have with Coach Dickert. He was very successful as defensive coordinator at the University of Wyoming, another land grant university also in an area that has some geographic challenges.”

Schulz also pointed to Dickert’s success with WSU’s own defense during his time in Pullman.

This will be Dickert’s first chance to show what he can do as a head coach. The coach has 14 seasons of collegiate coaching experience under his belt including time at Wyoming and South Dakota State. 

The first time Rolovich hit the news for his vaccine stance was July 21, when the coach announced via Twitter that he would not be attending Pac-12 Media Day because of his current vaccination status.

Exactly 30 days after this announcement, Inslee signed his proclamation requiring state employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 15, once again bringing all of this to the front of everyone’s attention.

“We have had conversations that date back months,” Chun said. “He was resolute in his stance. He’s righted to make a choice and that choice did not put him in compliance with the proclamation from the governor and that’s why we sit here today.”

This may not be the end of the Rolovich story at WSU, either. Chun said during the Monday evening conference that the coach is “righted an appeal process, and he’ll go through all of that.”

On Wednesday, Rolovich’s lawyer released a statement to ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg stating that the coach plans to file a lawsuit against the university for an “unjust and unlawful” termination. The statement called Chun out specifically by name on several occasions, saying that the athletic director allegedly engaged in “discriminatory and [vindictive] behavior.”

The statement also claimed that Rolovich was escorted out by WSU police immediately following his conversation with Chun, not allowing the coach to visit his office or speak to the team. Not being allowed to speak to the team after termination is a fairly common practice.

The statement also accused Chun of organizing a “secret donor trip” for him and Rolovich in July 2020 and stated that Chun allegedly contracted COVID-19 from this trip.

Schulz pointed out the negative impact of a highly visible WSU employee being unvaccinated during Monday’s press conference.

“From our faculty and staff point of view, there has been a lot of frustration with such a prominent employee choosing not to be vaccinated,” Schulz said. “We have a medical school. We are a science and technology-based and focused land grant institution.” 

Schulz also touched on the fact that not everyone, particularly alumni, agrees with the decision, saying he received emails from people on both sides of the aisle.

“We’ll probably have some people who elect to not financially support WSU because they don’t agree with the decision,” Schulz said.

Chun, Dickert and Schulz all pointed out that the group most affected by this is the student-athletes that worked with Rolovich and the other coaches every day. The trio asked WSU fans to support the players during this time.

“All my conversations with this team, they don’t deserve this,” Chun said Monday evening. “That is a real point of heartbreak. This upper-class, unfortunately for them, has tons of experience persevering through adversity and unfortunately for them, they’re going to have to go find another way to persevere through this adversity.”

The termination of Rolovich’s contract comes on the heels of a three-game winning streak for WSU. The Cougs had defeated Cal, Oregon State and Stanford in consecutive weeks

“I know I wanted to see Coach Rolovich and the other members of our football staff elect to take the vaccine,” Schulz said. “If you look at where we are as a football program, it’s fun to watch our team play over the last several weeks.”