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Coach Fired Over Vaccine Refusal Is Fighting Back

Nick Rolovich's religious exemption application was denied
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 19, 2021 1:24 AM CDT
Updated Oct 21, 2021 12:03 AM CDT
This Is the First Major College Coach Fired for Refusing Vaccine
Washington State coach Nick Rolovich watches during the first half of the team's NCAA college football game against Stanford, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Pullman, Wash.   (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

(Newser) Update: A lawyer for former Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich says his termination for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was unlawful and an attack on his Catholic faith, the AP reports. Rolovich will sue the university for illegal termination, ESPN reports. The attorney also claimed Rolovich was escorted by campus police to his car and not allowed to speak to the team or visit his office after his dismissal. Our original story from Tuesday follows:

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Washington State fired football coach Nick Rolovich and four of his assistants on Monday for refusing a state mandate that all employees get vaccinated against COVID-19, making him the first major college coach to lose his job over vaccination status, the AP reports. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, had set a deadline of Monday for thousands of state employees, including the Cougars’ coach, to be vaccinated. Rolovich applied for a religious exemption, which was denied Monday, Washington State athletic director Pat Chun said. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will be elevated to acting coach and his first game in charge will be Saturday at home against BYU. “This is a tough day for Washington State football,” Chun said at a news conference. “Nobody wants to be here."

Also fired for refusing vaccination were assistant coaches Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann, and Mark Weber. Chun said there may be no precedent for a team losing its head coach and so many assistants in the middle of a season. “Our student-athletes are the biggest losers in this,” he said. The 42-year-old Rolovich was the highest-paid state employee with an annual salary of more than $3 million in a contract that runs through 2025. He had said he wouldn't get vaccinated but wouldn't specify his reasons. He was the only unvaccinated head coach in the Pac-12 and had worn a mask during games. Rolovich was fired for cause, which means the university does not have to honor the rest of his contract, although lawsuits over the decision are likely. (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)

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