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Washington State fires its football coach over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Washington State University head coach Nick Rolovich speaks to his players before an NCAA college football game against Portland State on Sept. 11, 2021, in Pullman, Wash.
Young Kwak
Washington State University head coach Nick Rolovich speaks to his players before an NCAA college football game against Portland State on Sept. 11, 2021, in Pullman, Wash.

Head football coach Nick Rolovich was fired by Washington State University for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine as required by a mandate for state employees.

Four of Rolovich's assistant coaches — Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann and Mark Weber — were also terminated by the university for failure to get fully vaccinated by Monday.

"This is a disheartening day for our football program. Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team," WSU Director of Athletics Pat Chun said in an announcement. "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."

Rolovich is being replaced by defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, who will be elevated to acting head coach.

Rolovich was one of the highest-paid public employees in Washington with a salary of $3.1 million, according to earlier reports.

Under the state mandate, workers at state colleges and universities are required to get the vaccine. The mandate also covers public, charter and private school teachers and staff, health care workers and state troopers.

In July, before the Pac-12 conference that required in-person participants to be vaccinated, Rolovich issued a statementsaying he was not getting a vaccine for "reasons which will remain private."

"While I have made my own decision, I respect that every individual — including coaches, staff and student-athletes — can make his or her own decision regarding the Covid-19 vaccine," he said at the time. "I will not comment further on my decision."

Northwest Public Broadcasting reported that as of Oct. 7, about 6,069 state employees had sought exemptions and roughly 84% of those requests were approved.

Rolovich did seek a religious exemption, according to local news channel King 5, but the state's rules limited approval for those exemptions.

Under the rules, according to NPB's report, anyone whose job was public-facing and involved direct care or put them in close proximity to colleagues couldn't be accommodated in their current position. Regular tests or wearing a mask didn't matter under those guidelines.

School officials said just a small number of university workers chose not to get a vaccine.

WSU President Kirk Schulz said in a statement, "While much has been made of the relatively small number of university employees who are not complying with the Governor's mandate, we are immensely gratified that nearly 90 percent of WSU employees and 97 percent of our students are now vaccinated."

Schulz went on to say, "WSU students, faculty, and staff understand the importance of getting vaccinated and wearing masks so that we can safely return to in-person learning and activities."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.

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