About a month ago, Washington State Cougars football coach Nick Rolovich caused quite a stir when he announced he wouldn’t be attending Pac-12 Media Days because of his COVID-19 vaccination status. The conference would only allow vaccinated individuals to attend and Rolovich said on Twitter he has not been vaccinated for personal reasons. For his employer, it created some hiccups but it wouldn’t necessarily prevent him from performing his job duties provided he followed masking and distancing guidelines.
Now it appears he won’t have a choice if he wants to keep his job.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced today a vaccination requirement for all members of faculty, staff, and contractors in higher education by October 18th, meaning vaccination would need be initiated no later than about three weeks from now for a two dose vaccine or October 4th for single dose. The governor’s order limits exemptions to “medical and religious” and any state employee who have not completed their vaccinations by the middle of October would be subject to termination.
Washington State athletics also released a statement shortly after the governor spoke today:
“We applaud the efforts of Governor Inslee to protect the health and safety of the people of Washington. Washington State Athletics, including staff, coaches and student-athletes, will continue to follow all campus, local, state, Pac-12 and NCAA guidelines related to health and safety surrounding COVID-19 and we will work to ensure the mandates in the Governor’s Proclamation are followed.”
All three vaccines currently available in the United States fall under the Food and Drug Administration’s Emergency Use Authorization, though experts expect full authorization for at least one of them by the end of the summer. WSU is currently allowing exemptions to receiving the vaccine for “personal reasons”, which Rolovich is likely using, but the school has said they will do away with the exception once the FDA gives full approval.
Needless to say, this puts Rolovich in a bind. Regardless of what his personal beliefs are regarding the vaccine, it now appears he’ll need to get it as a condition of his employment. Failure to do so may very well result in his dismissal for cause, which would result in Washington State not owing him a penny. He’s also likely going to have a tough time claiming a medical or religious exemption at this juncture, given we do know the reason he has refused it to this point has been personal (in all likelihood).
We’ll see where things go from here!