With the deadline to get a vaccine and meet the state’s mandate passed, and only the exemption process left to play out, all indications are that Rolovich is still stubbornly holding his ground. That’s great news for Washington State University.
What the school’s administration — namely athletic director Pat Chun, incoming chancellor Elizabeth Chilton, and president Kirk Schulz — needs to do next is clear. Whether or not Nick Rolovich is granted an exemption in the blind process, he should be fired.
Even if Rolovich is granted an exemption, the university has numerous reasons to decide that he cannot be accommodated in his current job. The school should take those outs and get rid of him, as well as any other coach on the staff who followed his lead.
You can check out the entirety of the contract here, but this is a sampling of clauses in his contract that seem relevant regarding “specific duties” that he’d be unlikely to be able to perform as an unvaccinated head coach:
- “Under the direction of the Athletic Director, participate in events, activities, and/or efforts to foster support for the University’s Athletic Department and/or the Football program;”
- “Serve as director of instructional youth Football programs to be held in athletic facilities at the University’s Pullman campus if deemed applicable;”
- “The Athletic Director or his designee may reasonably assign other duties from time to time that are consistent with customary duties of a Head Football Coach at a Division I Football program;”
Rolovich has given up all leverage in a situation where he had almost none to begin with. He’s put himself at odds with his bosses, with the university as an institution, and with the sate of Washington itself — a state that has shown it will use its full weight to enforce and defend the vaccine mandate in court.
From the moment he put his embarrassing statement out on Twitter in July, it wasn’t a matter of if he’d be gone, but when and how much it would cost. He’s done nothing since then to show he’s fit for his job on or off the field.
It’s an absolute dream to be able to get rid of a mistake of a head coach without having to pay them. Washington State can fire Rolovich and any of his staff who made the same decision he did on October 18th and stop paying them immediately. The school, by being careful in public and private, has left itself plenty of room to justify that decision.
If Rolovich wants to fight about it, he’ll be tied up in court for quite some time — David Beaty and Kansas is the example here, and WSU has been careful to take lessons from the Jayhawks’ mistakes. By firing him for cause, it’s very important to note that the school is under no obligation to pay him anything, even as a court battle plays out. He has no leverage in the eyes of the public and he’s facing a mountain to climb in the courts. It’s a negotiator’s dream.
It’s time for the leadership at Washington State to be ruthless and make an example of Rolovich. The school, and the football program, will be better for it in the long run.