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It’s time for Nick Rolovich to go

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Enough of these games. It’s time to end this.

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

After months of dragging his feet, and weeks after his “personal decision” statement against getting the covid-19 vaccine, Nick Rolovich is up against a mandate requiring the vaccine unless he can show a medical or religious exemption or else he will lose his job. Rolovich has said he plans to “follow the mandate” but, specifically, has not said he will be vaccinated, even when asked directly.

It doesn’t matter whether Rolovich gets the vaccine: he should never coach another game at Washington State and should not be allowed to speak on behalf of the program. He has shown an inability to lead and doesn’t deserve to represent a university that prides itself on science, a strong nursing program, and is building a medical school named after beloved former university president Elson Floyd.

Having the highest-paid employee, and most visible face of the university, acting like a petulant child in public during a pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 600,000 Americans and thrown the lives of millions more into upheaval is the worst look possible for a public higher education institution right now. It’s embarrassing to be associated with in any way.

This has never been about convincing Rolovich to get vaccinated. Once he released his personal decision statement on July 21, it became clear that he is unfit for his job. Since that time, it’s only become more clear:

  • Washington State ranks last in the Pac-12 in recruiting by 247 composite index (with a class of 7 commits to this point), and has not had a commitment since June. While it’s summer, and things are slow, none of this bodes well for the future.
  • Rolovich was the only Pac-12 coach to not appear at media days due to his vaccination status. While he and his player representatives talked about personal choices, the rest of the coaches effectively used the rest of the day to negatively recruit against the Cougars and Rolovich.
  • The Cougars are the lowest-vaccinated team in the Pac-12 at 80%
  • Multiple coaches on Rolovich’s staff have not been vaccinated, as evidenced by their use of masks on the field during practice and his response to a question about it on Thursday.
  • Rolovich has remained in both national and local news since July 21, with multiple op-eds from The Seattle Times hammering WSU and its leadership repeatedly. Rolovich has been the focus of national news stories each time vaccination mandates have come up in the state, and is the example of an unvaccinated football coach nationally.
  • In response to the governor’s mandate and follow-up questions, Rolovich has responded that he (and his coaches) will “follow the mandate,” repeating the mantra like he’s just here to not get fined. This is, oddly, a perfect statement for someone more fit to follow than lead.

Rolovich chose the silliest possible time to take a stand and decide not to get vaccinated. He showed poor judgment in July and has continued to show poor judgment now. If we can question a coach’s on-field decisions, and connect those decisions to their ability to lead, then we should absolutely be able to do the same with something as serious as a choice not to be vaccinated in a pandemic and public health crisis.

Nick Rolovich no longer deserves to coach the Washington State Cougars or be associated with the university. In the year and a half he’s been here, he’s done nothing to earn the benefit of the doubt, and in fact has shown repeated red flags about his leadership ability and decision-making. By deciding not to get vaccinated as a leader and face of a public research university, Rolovich has failed in ways that will continue to damage the school long after he’s gone.

It’s time for him to go before he does any more damage.