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.