Former WSU coach Rolovich moves forward with lawsuit against Washington state for wrongful termination

Aug 9, 2022, 7:22 AM
nick rolovich...
Head coach Nick Rolovich of the Washington State Cougars looks on during the second half of a game against the USC Trojans at Los Angeles Coliseum on December 06, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Former Washington State University (WSU) head football coach Nick Rolovich has filed a tort suit against the state after he was fired in Nov. 2021 when he refused to receive the COVID-19 vaccination.

He is currently seeking $25 million on the grounds he was terminated as a result of religious discrimination by the university.

Rolovich applied for a religious exemption from Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate where all state employees must get vaccinated for COVID-19. Rolovich based his exemption on his status as a “devout Catholic.”

WSU denied his religious exemption.

The university claims Rolovich had ample time to get the vaccine before he was eventually terminated.

New report details behind-the-scenes saga leading up to firing of WSU football coach Nick Rolovich

A week before WSU announced that it would implement a vaccine requirement for the school’s students and staff, a meeting was arranged between Rolovich and WSU Regents Professor of Pathology and Infectious Diseases Dr. Guy Palmer.

His plans to sue the university and the state were a long time coming, as he announced he would pursue a wrongful termination suit shortly after he was fired.

Rolovich’s legal team published an administrative appeal regarding his termination a month after he was fired. The appeal stated that Rolovich was wrongfully terminated from the university. That appeal was ultimately denied.

Rolovich began his coaching career while still playing in the AFL, as he served as a quarterback coach for his JC alma mater, the City College of San Francisco Rams, for two years. He soon became the head coach for the University of Hawaii in 2016, and was later named Mountain West Coach of the Year after authoring a 10-win season and division title in 2019.

His time in Washington was much more tumultuous, only lasting 11 games. He went 28-27 with Hawaii before going just 5-6 with Washington State over two seasons (2020-21). His salary was $3 million per year with a contract that extended to 2025. He was also the only unvaccinated head coach in the Pac-12.

Washington State wide receiver Kassidy Woods claimed Rolovich made it clear that any student-athlete aligned with the group #WeAreUnited — a collection of Pac-12 athletes who sought fair treatment for college athletes — could jeopardize their future with the Cougars.

#WeAreUnited was a group formed amid the pandemic to help negotiate with the Pac-12 conference to gain better treatment for student-athletes, ranging from COVID-19 safety protocols to racial equality messages under the threat of opting out of the fall season.

An understanding between Rolovich and Woods eventually formed, as Washington State spokesman Bill Stephens clarified that Woods did not lose his scholarship, nor was any player cut from the team.

If an individual plans to sue the state, they must first file a tort claim with the state Office of Risk Management. Then, there is a 60-day period before a lawsuit can be filed. This is to allow the state time to review and respond to the claim. Once the 60 days has passed, however, a lawsuit can be filed.

It was confirmed with the state of Washington that Rolovich filed a tort claim on April 27 — 103 days ago, as of this reporting.

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Former WSU coach Rolovich moves forward with lawsuit against Washington state for wrongful termination