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Nick Rolovich, WSU step into the spotlight at Pac-12 Media Day

It may have been Pac-12 football media day, but Washington State’s representatives had to talk about a lot more than that.

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North media poll, but were the headliner at Tuesday’s conference media day event in Los Angeles and, unfortunately, it didn’t have anything to do with football.

Last week, Nick Rolovich made waves with his announcement that he has chosen not to receive the vaccine. In his announcement, Rolovich declined to say why he made the “personal choice” and announced that he would be participating in media day virtually due to a vaccination requirement at the event. Since his Tweet, plenty of media outlets (including some of our writers here at CougCenter) have voiced their opinion about the decision, but Rolovich himself chose to stay quiet until he took the (virtual) stage on Tuesday.

“The reasons for my individual choice will remain private,” Rolovich said in his press conference. “However, I want to make it clear I respect, I support all the work being done by the State of Washington, who as a state has one of the highest percentages of vaccinations in the country... I’m not against vaccinations. I wholeheartedly support those who choose to be vaccinated, including our players, staff, coaches.”

Rolovich went on to say that he knows he will be held to a stricter set of rules because of his decision, and says he will abide by all of the regulations put in place at the state, campus and conference level.

“I’m not against vaccinations,” Rolovich added. “I wholeheartedly support those who choose to be vaccinated, including our players, staff and coaches.”

While Rolovich’s announcement last week made waves both locally and nationally, some of the players in the program have publicly displayed their support for their head coach. That didn’t change on Tuesday once WSU’s player representatives Max Borghi and Jahad Woods took to the podium in California.

“I just saw a lot of hate toward Rolo and his decision,” Woods said (via Theo Lawson of the Spokesman Review). “It’s a lot of outside noise and people on the outside not knowing specifics. You shouldn’t jump to conclusions when you don’t know the reasoning behind it. It’s funny because it hasn’t impacted the team in a negative way.”

“I felt like it was good for myself and my community if I did it,” Borghi added. “That’s my personal choice but everyone has the freedom of their own personal choice.”

Despite Rolovich’s stance, the majority of his team is vaccinated. Rolovich told the media in his press conference that 75 percent of the Washington State football team is currently fully vaccinated for the virus. Pat Chun later told the Spokesman Review that the team is “on a pathway to get to 85 percent” by the start of the season. At 75 percent, Washington State sits in the lower third of the conference in vaccination rates. According to the conference, two-third of the programs sit at 80% or higher, and half of those have at least 90% of their program vaccinated.

One major reason fans were questioning Rolovich’s decision to enter the season unvaccinated is the perceived competitive disadvantage. Many conferences, including the SEC and Big Ten, are likely to institute a policy that will force a team to forfeit a game if they experience a COVID-19 outbreak. New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff says that his conference is likely to follow suit.

“We’re leaning towards going back to the pre-COVID policy of forfeits if you can’t field a team, but we’ve not made that final decision yet,” Kliavkoff said, adding that he expects to finalize a decision sometime in mid-August.

The Pac-12 posted video of Rolovich’s full press conference on YouTube here. You can also read a transcript of his comments here.

'I don't mean to cause any heartache to this university.' Washington State's Nick Rolovich takes on vaccine questions at Pac-12 Media Day | The Spokesman-Review
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – Right on cue, at 9:20 a.m. Tuesday, Nick Rolovich’s image appeared on the large flat screen parked at the front of the second-floor ballroom where Pac-12 football coaches and players gathered for the league’s Media Day.

More Media Day Fun!

Of course, in addition to the press conferences and TV appearances, media day also brings the annual pre-season poll and all-conference teams.

Media predicts 2020 rematch in 2021 Pac-12 Football Championship Game | Pac-12
For the 2nd season in a row, Washington State was picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North.

Media selects preseason 2021 Pac-12 All-Conference Football Team | Pac-12
Running back Max Borghi and offensive lineman Abe Lucas both picked up first-team all-Pac-12 honors, while six more WSU players were picked as honorable mentions.

Pac-12 Media Day notes: SEC realignment could put Pac-12 in 'unique position,' Kliavkoff says | The Spokesman-Review
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. – The Southeastern Conference could be expanding sooner rather than later with news breaking Tuesday morning that Big 12 Conference powers Texas and Oklahoma have requested invitations to join a league that’s been the sport’s strongest for well over a decade.

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