PULLMAN, Wash. — Nick Rolovich is out as the Washington State football coach after refusing to become vaccinated for COVID-19, a requirement for all state employees, a source confirmed to ESPN on Monday.
Multiple unvaccinated assistant coaches are also out, the source said. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert is expected to be named as the interim coach.
Monday was the deadline for state employees to become fully vaccinated or receive an approved medical or religious exemption as part of a state mandate that was announced in August. Rolovich was seeking a religious exemption, but it is not yet clear how the university committee assigned to evaluate religious exemptions ruled.
Washington State has not provided any examples of what qualifies as a religious exemption. As part of the application process, Rolovich would have needed to attest to how his “sincerely held religious belief” is in conflict with the vaccine requirement. It is a blind process, meaning the committee would not have access to any identifying information while making its determination, a process designed to treat every employee equally. At least two people trained in the legality of the religious exemption have to review every application.
No major religious denomination opposes COVID-19 vaccines, but that has no bearing on what can be considered a sincerely held belief.
Rolovich has been asked repeatedly for weeks to expand upon the reasoning for his position but has declined to provide clarity.
“[It’s been] about three months, four months,” Rolovich said Saturday after the Cougars (4-3) beat Stanford 34-31 to run their winning streak to three games. “So I’ve gotten used to it. These kids are incredible. Love being around them. They’re playing their hearts out for this university. I think they’ve got a real good bond that they’ll remember for the rest of their life. And it’s just pretty special.”
Rolovich was hired in January 2020 after a four-year stint as the head coach at Hawaii, where he compiled a 28-27 record.
His departure was first reported by the Oregonian.