Unvaccinated WSU coach Nick Rolovich ‘not against vaccinations’
Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich made a virtual appearance at Pac-12 media days on Tuesday, barred from the in-person gathering based on his decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Rolovich said he has the support of Washington State’s administration even as the state’s governor chided the coach for not having accurate information before making his decision.
“I’m not against vaccinations, and I wholeheartedly support those who choose to get vaccinated, including our players,” Rolovich said. “I urge everyone to consider being vaccinated.”
He has not disclosed why he has chosen to remain unvaccinated.
Washington State’s football team will hit the 85 percent vaccination level this week, according to athletic director Pat Chun, who did not directly address a recent statement from the university president that stated: “Washington State University expects all students, faculty, staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated before the start of the fall semester. As the state’s land-grant research university, WSU has an obligation to serve the public good and promote the health and safety of its communities. The science clearly shows that the COVID-19 vaccine nearly eliminates the chances of death or serious illness related to a COVID-19 infection and is a critical element in protecting public health locally and worldwide.”
Washington State has an exemption policy in place, which is the loophole Rolovich utilized. He was the only Pac-12 head coach not available at the media days gathering in Los Angeles.
The 42-year-old Rolovich, hired to replace opinionated and pointed coach Mike Leach after his departure for Mississippi State, said he understands questions about whether he can effectively lead the team without being vaccinated. But Rolovich said that is not a concern he shares, adding he will follow all policies “for the unvaccinated.”
Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said he doesn’t expect a vaccine mandate to enter the equation. Chun said the university continues to “educate” all employees and students on the known facts of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Nick and I fully knew the second this went public, it was going to create a certain level of passion because of the issue that’s at play here,” Chun said. “Nick made a decision, we’re going to manage it and we’re going to go forward.”
Rolovich has been very active in the community and continues to support small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, running back Max Borghi said, offering a different perspective than some of the initial reaction to the decision.
“During the pandemic, he was helping small businesses,” said Borghi, representing the Cougars on Tuesday in L.A. “If a place was going to go out of business, he’d go buy 140 meals for the team from there. He’s truly a good guy, and he truly cares.”
Rolovich said he’s sensitive to becoming a distraction this season but appreciates the school supporting his right to make the decision.
“I don’t mean to cause any heartache to this university or to this athletic department or this state,” Rolovich said. “We do have an open line of communication.”
The Cougars are scheduled to host Utah State on Sept. 4 in the season opener.
–Field Level Media