Skip to content Skip to footer

Washington State Fires Football Coach for Refusing to Follow Vaccine Mandate

The coach violated a mandate from Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee for all state-employed workers to be vaccinated by Monday.

Nick Rolovich 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.

Nick Rolovich, the head coach of the Washington State Cougars football team, was fired on Monday after refusing to be vaccinated against coronavirus, in direct violation of a mandate for state employees.

Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) issued a proclamation earlier this year that required state employees to be fully vaccinated by Monday, October 18. Nearly 90 percent of Washington State University employees and 97 percent of the student body are vaccinated.

After several conversations with athletic director Pat Chun, Rolovich, who has been vocal about his vaccination status on social media, was let go from his position.

“Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team,” Chun said in a statement regarding Rolovich’s firing. “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.”

“Our student-athletes are the biggest losers in this,” Chun added.

Rolovich has been silent about his reasons for refusing to get vaccinated, and he has not yet commented on his firing, but reports indicated that he had sought a religious exemption. The former coach was denied use of that exemption, however.

No major religious denomination opposes vaccines on faith-based reasoning. Typically, claims of privately-held religious beliefs against vaccinations are also difficult to prove in courtroom settings.

Rolovich was the highest-paid state employee in Washington, earning an annual salary of $3 million. His contract was set to expire in 2025. Although he wore masks to every game, Rolovich was also the only coach in the Pac-12 Conference to refuse to be vaccinated.

In addition to the head coach, four other assistants from the WSU football program were also fired for violating the vaccine mandate.

While many people may wrongly believe that vaccination for protection against COVID-19 — a virus that has killed 8,302 individuals in Washington and more than 726,000 in the United States since March 2020 — is a personal matter, studies have demonstrated that higher vaccination rates can also affect the broader community. One study, for example, has shown that higher vaccination rates in a given geographic area are associated with lower levels of hospitalizations. Hospitalization rates for coronavirus are also higher in states with low vaccine numbers, data has revealed.

Around 80 percent of residents in Washington who are eligible to receive a vaccine have obtained at least one dose, and 73 percent of residents who are 12 and older are fully vaccinated.

Briefly, we wanted to update you on where Truthout stands this month.

To be brutally honest, Truthout is behind on our fundraising goals for the year. There are a lot of reasons why. We’re dealing with broad trends in our industry, trends that have led publications like Vice, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic to make painful cuts. Everyone is feeling the squeeze of inflation. And despite its lasting importance, news readership is declining.

To ensure we stay out of the red by the end of the year, we have a long way to go. Our future is threatened.

We’ve stayed online over two decades thanks to the support of our readers. Because you believe in the power of our work, share our transformative stories, and give to keep us going strong, we know we can make it through this tough moment.

At this moment, we have 48 hours left in our important fundraising campaign, and we still must raise $26,000. Please consider making a donation today.