Exclusive: Ex-WSU Coach Rolovich slams firing over vaccine mandate

Nov 16, 2022, 12:08 PM | Updated: 12:47 pm

Nick Rolovich lawsuit...

Former Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich was fired as WSU’s coach for failing to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that all state workers be vaccinated for COVID-19. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Former Washington State University football coach Nick Rolovich was fired as WSU’s coach for failing to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that all state workers be vaccinated for COVID-19. Now he’s filing a lawsuit saying his rights were violated.

Rolovich is Catholic and said in the lawsuit that he applied for a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement, but that exemption was denied and he was fired. Now the lawsuit alleges the university owes Rolovich for breach of contract, discrimination, and wrongful withholding of wages, as well as violations of the Civil Rights Act and the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.rant

Oct. 2021: New report details behind-the-scenes saga leading up to firing of WSU football coach Nick Rolovich

Rolovich: Getting let go at WSU “changed my perspective on life”

“I think that everyone should have a choice like it is on every other vaccine,” Rolovich told The Jason Rantz Show on AM 770 KTTH. “I got a little blowback from that.

“I was so deep with my conscience. It really was an enlightening time for me spiritually and I’m glad I went forward through it for that reason,” Rolovich said. “I think it’s changed my perspective on life very much.”

The lawsuit was filed against the university, Athletic Director Pat Chun, and Gov. Jay Inslee. It says the defendants violated Rolovich’s “constitutional, statutory and contractual rights,” causing him “significant and ongoing damages.”

Rolovich was the highest-paid state employee at the time making $3.2 million dollars. He was fired with cause in Oct. 2021.

“Right now, I just want to coach football and get what I think I’m owed,” Rolovich explained. “I didn’t hold the gun to their head and say 3 million a year. They offered it, and I just said, yes.”

Says he didn’t get vaccine for ‘religious reasons’

Rolovich said he should have made public the fact that he didn’t want to get the vaccine for religious reasons sooner.

Rolovich said he is “a pretty honest guy, I’m not trying to trick or manipulate people.”

Rolovich described how Chun wanted him to get the vaccine at the 50-yard line with all of his players standing around him. “I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I have no desire to do that. I wasn’t going to make it a circus.”

When Rantz asked what Rolovich thought was behind decisions being made at the school during the pandemic. “In my opinion, a lot of decisions were made for money, and for monetary reasons, in the school, the athletic department, and in other places.

“Whether it was fear, whether it was misinformation, this storyline, the narrative was changing, at minimum, weekly, sometimes daily. Decisions were being made, I think, initially, to get a football season played and keep our guys safe,” Rolovich said. “But then cracks in the story started coming out. And, I think it was more just to make sure the money’s good.”

Requirements during the pandemic always changing

Rolovich described the process of his termination.

“In August, there was an opportunity to check a box for personal and religious exemptions,” Rolovich said. “Myself and all the coaches clicked that box.”

A short time later, Inslee took away the personal exemption, and “it started getting a little bit more contentious.”

He said that led to several meetings with the athletic director and HR representative that led to the dismissal of Rolovich.

“It was an evolution of discussions because the rules kept changing,” Rolovich explained. “A bunch of kids got COVID-19 because they didn’t want to wear masks, and then they have to put masks on again. Nothing was really straight up.”

Rolovich told Rantz that players were given religious exemptions in games and practices with coaches who weren’t.

Rantz asked Rolovich if people at WSU were accepting of his decision.

The decision changed his relationship with ‘everybody’

“It was what you valued, right? A lot of people valued the money, and a lot of people valued the opportunity. Some said you ruined it for yourself and everybody else,” Rolovich explained. “Then there’s some that believe that it was up to each individual to make that decision.”

He said that his decision not to take the vaccine pitted friends against friends and it changed his relationship with everybody.

“It shows you who’s in your corner. There’s a group that got the shot because they wanted it, and they wanted to protect themselves. Then there’s a group that got the shot so they can keep their job.”

Rantz wanted to know if the rules were being evenly applied.

Rolovich answered, “I think because of my status, this was not something they wanted to deal with. I was even told the security cameras in the building were checking if you had a mask on where you walked down the hallway. The nonsense was nonstop.”

Washington State officials issued a statement Monday saying the lawsuit was “wholly without merit.”

“Washington State University carried out the Governor’s COVID-19 vaccination proclamation for state employees in a fair and lawful manner, including in its evaluation of employee requests for medical or religious exemptions and accommodations. For multiple reasons, Mr. Rolovich did not qualify, and the university firmly stands by that decision,” the statement said.

Rolovich does not regret his decision

Rantz said now that the lawsuit is being filed, the irony is that if Rolovich is successful, it’ll end up costing WSU more than it would have had they fulfilled his contract and the contract of others.

“They could have let me go without cause, and just we shake hands and disagree,” he said.

That would have meant that Rolovich would have received his buyout of $3.6 million.

“Then I would have gone away, we’re not having this conversation and, hopefully, coaching somewhere,” Rolovich said. “But now, I’m like a leper.”

Rantz asked Rolovich if he would have made the same decision if he were head coach at a more prestigious program like Notre Dame.

“I would make the same decision if I was the head coach at high school,” he explained. “The only thing I regret to be honest with you, is, is not coming out and talking about the religious exemption earlier. Other than that, I have no regrets. History is written in the present, you know, we’ll see how this all shakes out in the future. But I don’t I don’t have any regrets about not doing it.”

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast. Follow @JasonRantz on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook. Check back frequently for more news and analysis.

Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH
  • listen to jason rantzTune in to AM 770 KTTH weekdays at 3-7pm toThe Jason Rantz Show.

Jason Rantz Show

Jason Rantz

Follow @https://twitter.com/jasonrantz...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Elementary sex ed promoted puberty blockers, pubic hair art

An elementary school offered inappropriate sex ed lessons to students without parental consent or district approval.

2 days ago

seattle sucker punched...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Man ‘sucker punched’ in downtown Seattle as crime plagues city

A man was "sucker punched" in an unprovoked attack in downtown Seattle over the Memorial Day weekend, according to police.

3 days ago

Seattle police...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Many Seattle city council candidates won’t support police, drug laws

An alarming number of Seattle City Council candidates do not support fully staffing or funding the police department. And nearly a third of the candidates want the police to ignore drug laws.

4 days ago

Bob Ferguson Governor Google data privacy lawsuit...

Jason Rantz

Rantz: Progressives shred Bob Ferguson for Governor endorsement

The Bob Ferguson for Governor campaign is off to a rocky start, already alienating Seattle activists after bragging about a police chief's endorsement.

5 days ago

freedom series homelessness...

KTTH staff

KTTH Freedom Series: WA still suffering from crime, homelessness

Local leaders and officials joined the KTTH Freedom Series to discuss solutions to the region's crime and homelessness crisis.

7 days ago

ktth freedom series crime crisis...

KTTH staff

KTTH Freedom Series: State policies created WA crime crisis

Jason Rantz was joined by politicians and authorities to discuss how policy has affected the crime crisis during the KTTH Freedom Series.

7 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...

Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Exclusive: Ex-WSU Coach Rolovich slams firing over vaccine mandate