Washington State University's head football coach, Nick Rolovich, and four assistant coaches are losing their jobs because they failed to comply with the state's Covid-19 vaccine mandate, the university's athletics department said Monday.
"Due to the requirements set forth in Washington Governor Jay Inslee's Proclamation 21-14.1, Nick Rolovich is no longer able to fulfill the duties as the football head coach at Washington State University," the department said in a news release.
Rolovich was named the 33rd head football coach in WSU program history on January 14, 2020. He was the highest-paid employee in the state, with a salary of $3.2 million.
Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will become acting head coach, the release said.
The four assistant coaches are Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann and Mark Weber, the release said.
"This is a disheartening day for our football program," director of athletics Pat Chun said in a statement. "Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team. 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."
Inslee's proclamation required full vaccinations by Monday for most state employees.
It's the latest Covid-19 vaccine issue to roil the sports world. Earlier Monday, the National Hockey League announced that Evander Kane of the San Jose Sharks has been suspended after an investigation into whether he submitted a fraudulent Covid-19 vaccination card, according to Front Office Sports and ESPN.
Vaccine mandates have prompted showdowns between employers and employees outside the world of sports since President Joe Biden in September imposed stringent new vaccine rules on federal workers, large employers and health care staff in a sweeping attempt to contain the spread of Covid-19.
The requirements could apply to as many as 100 million Americans -- close to two-thirds of the American workforce.
Mandates have spurred workers to get vaccinated -- but some holdouts, like Rolovich, have been suspended or lost their jobs, and left workplaces scrambling to cover potential shortages.
In July, Rolovich said in a post on social media that he "elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private."
"While I have made my own decision," Rolovich said then, "I respect that every individual -- including our coaches, staff and student-athletes -- can make his or her own decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccine."
The team went 1-3 last season, which was shortened because of the pandemic. The Cougars are 4-3 this season.
On Saturday, after a 34-31 win at home against Stanford, Rolovich was asked in a postgame news conference if he knew whether he would be coaching the team the following week.
"I do not," Rolovich told reporters.
When asked whether he had been given guidance between then and Monday regarding an exemption request, Rolovich said he was waiting for an email.
"I'm going to come to work tomorrow and get ready for BYU, and we'll grade this film," Rolovich said Saturday, speaking of the October 23 game against Brigham Young University. "I don't think this is in my hands. I've been settled for a long time on it. I believe it's going to work out the right way."
Asked whether the "right way" meant remaining as the team's head coach, Rolovich replied, "Correct. Or if that's not what (Chun) wants, then I guess then I've got to move on."
When Rolovich was asked whether he would take the vaccine to save his job, he replied, "If that happens, you'll be the first to know."
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