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

The situation about Washington State football and Nick Rolovich has been boiling up for weeks now as the head coach has refused to get vaccinated in spite of the mandate for state employees. It all culminated on Monday when WSU fired Rolovich for cause. The termination also included multiple assistant coaches who were not vaccinated either.

Rolovich has been cagey since before the college football season started when it came to saying whether or not he’d get vaccinated against COVID-19. Rolovich didn’t attend Pac-12 Media Day because of his unvaccinated status, which only ratcheted up the spotlight and interest. While not required at the time, it was assumed that most college football programs would push for coaches and players to get vaccinated to avoid forfeit situations, not to mention the general health and well-being of their community.

But Rolovich refused to engage on the issue, often stymying reporters at press conferences over mundane yes-or-no questions.


Washington governor Jay Inslee announced in August that all state employees would be required to be vaccinated unless exempted by October 18. As the head coach of the Washington State University football team, Rolovich is the highest-paid state employee in Washington, making the outcome a referendum of how seriously the school and state would be taking the mandate.

Rolovich initially said he would “follow the mandate” but was elusive about details. It later became clear he had no intention of getting vaccinated, setting up a showdown between him and the school. Rolovich did apply for a religious exemption but he did not receive it (not to mention that Rolovich is Catholic and the Pope has backed getting the vaccine). Meanwhile, a story in the NY Times seemed to imply that the school was getting buttoned up to take action assuming the exemption wouldn’t go through.

In the interim, the Cougars have played up and down all season. They’re coming off a big win over Stanford that moved them to 4-3 overall, riding a three-game winning streak. And while a Pac-12 North title isn’t out of the question, it speaks to the kind of distraction that Rolovich is causing that the school would want to move on from him regardless of their current momentum on the field.

After the game, Rolovich seemed to understand this might be his finale with the Cougars, telling reporters that while he is “waiting on an email” to see if his exemption would be granted, “I don’t think this is in my hands.” He was correct and it appears the exemption request did not go in his favor.

And so, as the deadline arrived on Monday, the writing was on the wall for Rolovich, who stuck to his convictions but lost his lucrative job and tarnished his reputation in the process. On Sunday night, it became clear something was coming when the school didn’t send out its usual notice about Rolovich’s weekly press conference.

As Monday rolled on with no word of the usual press conference, there was mention of a mandatory player meeting with the school’s AD in the afternoon specifically to discuss Rolovich’s future with the program.

The news of Rolovich’s firing finally came around 4:30 p.m. PST.

The school did have several options they could have taken with Rolovich, such as regular COVID testing or moving Rolovich to a role that doesn’t interact with the public. But it’s pretty hard to be the head football coach of an FBS program without being hands-on, available for media appearances, available to appear in public, and able to visit with recruits across the nation.

Ultimately, Rolovich made his choice and left WSU with none.

[John Canzano, CougCenter]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to sean@thecomeback.com.