Oct 16, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich looks on during warms before a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Nick Rolovich seeking $25M from Washington State

Former football coach Nick Rolovich filed a claim against Washington State for wrongful termination and is seeking $25 million, the Seattle Times reported.

The school fired Rolovich and four assistant coaches for cause last October after they failed to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that required all state employees in Washington to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Rolovich, who is Catholic, filed a request for a religious exemption to the mandate but was denied.

Rolovich, 43, had three years and about $9 million left on his contract at the time. The Cougars were 5-6 during his 1 1/2 seasons as the head coach.

According to the Seattle Times, a $25 million tort claim was filed on Rolovich’s behalf on April 27 with the state’s Office of Risk Management.

A tort claim is a prerequisite to filing a lawsuit against a state agency. Rolovich had not filed a suit as of Tuesday, a spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office told the newspaper.

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich celebrates after a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Ex-Washington State coach Nick Rolovich to sue over firing

Former Washington State coach Nick Rolovich will pursue legal action against the university for illegal termination, in part because of “discriminatory and vindictive behavior” by athletic director Pat Chun, his attorney said Wednesday.

Washington State fired Rolovich and four assistant coaches Monday after they failed to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that required all state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Rolovich was the state’s highest-paid employee at $3.2 million per year.

Rolovich, 42, had filed a request for a religious exemption to the mandate that all employees in the state become vaccinated by Oct. 19, but his request — reviewed anonymously — was denied.

Chun on Monday said Rolovich’s firing is for cause separation, meaning the university does not plan to pay him.

“It is a tragic and damning commentary on our culture and more specifically on Chun that Coach Rolovich has been derided, demonized and ultimately fired from his job merely for being devout in his Catholic faith,” Brian Fahling, who represents Rolovich, said in a statement obtained by ESPN and Yahoo.

“… Since at least early April, it became clear that Chun had already determined that Coach Rolovich would be fired,” the statement read. “Chun’s animus toward Coach Rolovich’s sincerely held religious beliefs, and Chun’s dishonesty at the expense of Coach Rolovich during the past year is damning and will be thoroughly detailed in litigation. Chun’s discriminatory and vindicative (sic) behavior has caused immeasurable harm to Coach Rolovich and his family.”

It is uncertain what restitution Rolovich would be seeking against Washington State. Yahoo Sports reported Rolovich had three years and approximately $9 million left on his contract.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich looks during a gam e against the Utah State Aggies in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Rolovich could have coached final game at Washington State

Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich said he’s “waiting on an email” to find out whether he will keep his job because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The state is mandating that school employees in Washington be fully vaccinated against the virus by Monday or have an approved exemption. Rolovich has applied for the exemption and is waiting for a decision by email.

“I’m going to come to work tomorrow and get ready for (upcoming opponent) BYU and grade this film,” Rolovich said after Saturday’s 34-31 defeat of Stanford. “I don’t think this is in my hands. I’ve been settled for a long time on it … I believe it’s going to work out the right way.”

Reporters asked if he meant keeping his job.

“Correct,” he said. “Or if that’s not what he (athletic director Patrick Chun) wants, then I guess I’ve got to move on. I like being the coach here. I love these kids. I’ve just got to have faith in it.”

On Aug. 18, Gov. Jay Inslee issued an order requiring everyone working or volunteering at levels from early learning to higher education at public, private or charter schools in Washington to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 “as a condition of employment.”

“Individuals who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal,” according to Inslee’s order. The governor said there was no option to take COVID-19 tests instead of being vaccinated. There are “limited exceptions” someone working at an education facility could use to apply for an exemption, “including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs.”

“I plan on following his mandate, for sure,” Rolovich said when asked about Inslee’s directive at the time. He has not shared anything other than to confirm he is seeking a religious exemption.

Rolovich is the highest-paid state employee at $3.2 million.

If the exemption request is denied, Rolovich still could save his job by getting a single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Monday. If he declines, he will be terminated.

Should there be a backlog in the review process and his request is not processed by Monday, Rolovich would be placed on leave.

Rolovich, 42, was hired to coach the Cougars before the 2020 season. They were 1-3 last year in the virus-interrupted season and 4-3 so far in 2021.

He is the only head coach in the Pac-12 who is not vaccinated.

–Field Level Media

Jul 27, 2021; Hollywood, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich speaks with the media during the Pac-12 football Media Day at the W Hollywood. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

State vaccine order could force out WSU coach Nick Rolovich

Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich could lose his job if he fails to comply with a state law mandating COVID-19 vaccines for those working in educational settings.

Gov. Jay Inslee on Wednesday issued an order requiring everyone working or volunteering at levels from early learning to higher education to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18 “as a condition of employment.” The order includes public, private and charter schools and applies to everyone from teachers to coaches to bus drivers to support staff.

“Individuals who refuse to get vaccinated will be subject to dismissal,” according to Inslee’s order.

Inslee also reinstated a requirement for Washington residents to wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status, effective Monday amid rising COVID-19 cases in the state. Washington recently broke the previous record for COVID hospitalizations set in December, per Inslee’s office.

The issue of Rolovich’s vaccination status came to light in late July when he made a virtual appearance at Pac-12 media days, barred from the in-person gathering based on his decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“I’m not against vaccinations, and I wholeheartedly support those who choose to get vaccinated, including our players,” Rolovich said at the time. “I urge everyone to consider being vaccinated.”

He has not disclosed why he has chosen to remain unvaccinated.

Inslee’s announcement said there is no option to take COVID-19 tests instead of being vaccinated. There are “limited exceptions” someone working at an education facility can use to apply for an exemption, “including legitimate medical reasons and sincerely held religious beliefs.”

In a statement released after Inslee announced his order, the Washington State athletic department voiced support.

“We applaud the efforts of Governor Inslee to protect the health and safety of the people of Washington,” the statement read. “Washington State athletics, including staff, coaches and student-athletes will continue to follow all campus, local, state, Pac-12 and NCAA guidelines related to health and safety surrounding COVID-19 and we will work to ensure the mandates in the Governor’s Proclamation are followed.”

Washington State went 1-3 in the abbreviated 2020 season, its first with Rolovich as head coach. The 42-year-old California native previously coached Hawaii to a 28-27 record from 2016-19.

The Cougars are scheduled to host Utah State to open the season on Sept. 4.

–Field Level Media

Jul 27, 2021; Hollywood, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich speaks with the media during the Pac-12 football Media Day at the W Hollywood. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

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

Nov 14, 2020; Pullman, Washington, USA;Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich talks with an official during a game against the Oregon Ducks in the first half at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

WSU president weighs in on football coach’s non-vaccination

Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich appears to be at odds with university president Kirk Schulz, who said it is the expectation that all members of the campus community will be vaccinated for COVID-19 before returning to campus for the new school year.

The statement Schulz issued late Wednesday came after Rolovich said he has chosen, for personal reasons, not to get the vaccine. Because he is not vaccinated, he must participate in the Pac-12 media day remotely. The conference is requiring everyone attending the event next week in Los Angeles to be fully vaccinated.

Schulz said that is his expectation for the Pullman, Wash., campus.

“Washington State University expects all students, faculty, staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated before the start of the fall semester,” his statement read. “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.”

Schulz said the university has an exemption process for people with both medical and non-medical reasons for not being vaccinated. Being unvaccinated will be more difficult for Rolovich to interact with his staff and team, however.

“Those requesting an exemption will be required to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing and may be subject to other public health measures when on WSU property,” Schulz said.

Rolovich’s announcement on Wednesday rippled across the state to the capital in Olympia, where Gov. Jay Inslee weighed in.

“Has he been suffering from misinformation? … Maybe we will give him a call and find out,” Inslee said, according to KHQ-TV in Spokane.

Washington State went 1-3 in the abbreviated 2020 season, its first with Rolovich as head coach. The 42-year-old California native previously coached Hawaii to a 28-27 record from 2016-19.

–Field Level Media

Oct 19, 2019; Pullman, WA, USA; Washington State Cougars helmet sits during football game against the Colorado Buffaloes in the first at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Freshman QB de Laura will start for Washington State

When the Washington State Cougars open their season Saturday at Oregon State, they will have a true freshman at quarterback for the first time in school history.

Jayden de Laura, one of three candidates, won the job, first-year coach Nick Rolovich announced Monday.

The other contenders were redshirt sophomore Cammon Cooper and redshirt freshman Gunner Cruz. The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review cited multiple sources over the weekend in reporting that de Laura would get the nod.

de Laura takes over for Anthony Gordon, who completed 71.6 percent of his passes for 5,579 yards with 48 touchdowns vs. 16 interceptions as a senior for the Cougars last season.

Washington State went 6-7 overall and 3-6 in the Pac-12 a season ago.

Rolovich, who spent four seasons as head coach at Hawaii before taking over when Mike Leach left Washington State for Mississippi State, had been trying to lure de Laura to that school.

de Laura guided St. Louis School in Honolulu to consecutive state titles, including a senior season that saw him rack up 3,452 yards passing and 29 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media