What started out as a quiet Monday quickly turned very hectic as over a span of a few hours USC announced that Clay Helton will no longer be their head coach, reporters once again put Washington State coach Nick Rolovich under the microscope about his vaccine stance, and wide receiver Travell Harris was named Pac-12 Special teams player of the week.
After being with the program since 2010 and the head coach since 2015, the Trojans announced that they were “making a change in the leadership of our football program.” The announcement comes two days after they were blown out by Stanford 42-28 at home, and five days before they will be playing the Cougars in Pullman. The Cardinal, projected to finish near the bottom of the Pac-12, led 42-13 in the fourth quarter before the Trojans scored twice in the last 6 minutes of the game.
Helton went 46-24 during his tenure, including three Pac-12 south championships and one Pac-12 championship. He led the Trojans to four bowl games in which he won just one of those games: The 2017 Rose Bowl.
This leaves the Trojans without a head coach as they prepare to get on a plane and head North to take on WSU in the Cougars’ first conference game of the season. With kick off slated for 12:30 p.m. PT on FOX, Rolovich and the Cougars will be looking to take advantage of the negatives that are surrounding the Trojans program at the moment.
Rolovich actually found out about Helton during his press availability on Monday as Brenna Greene asked a question. He responded with, “It’s a crazy business we’re in, especially as of late.” Trojans cornerbacks coach Donte Williams will take over interim head coaching duties as the program begins a national search for a new head coach.
Well. Clay Helton was fired in the middle of Nick Rolovich's press conference today and it just so happened to be my turn to ask questions.— Brenna Greene (@BrennaGreene_) September 13, 2021
So that was something.
Here is his response when I asked Rolovich his thoughts: pic.twitter.com/AgcjBTcLgk
Prior to finding out about Helton, Chris Daniels of King 5 peppered Rolovich with questions that nearly everyone wants to know the answers to. Monday was the last day for Rolovich to get the Pfizer vaccine in order for him to reach the deadline that was set in place by the state of Washington. Daniels led off his questions by asking Rolovich if he had made his decision to get the vaccine or not. Rolovich said without actually giving any kind of response that he would be sticking to what he said before and that he would be following the mandate.
Daniels did not let up and asked if he had received the shot or if he had scheduled a time to receive the shot. Rolovich said “I understand what you guys are trying to get to” before saying that he was also not going to talk about the possibility of receiving a medical or religious exemption.
Things then got a little more interesting when Daniels asked about his hesitation when it came to talking about it. He responded by saying “I don’t know that it’s all that positive to get deep into it with the media the way it is going, so I'm just going to keep that to myself.” This response to me is what stood out the most. I took this response as he knows what he is going to do and the media and the fans are not going to like it. He has until October 18th to be fully vaccinated (two week post final dose) or risk losing his job if he is unable to get approval due to either a medical or a religious exemption.
.@ChrisDaniels5 asked Nick Rolovich extensively about his vaccine status today.— Brenna Greene (@BrennaGreene_) September 13, 2021
Full clip below.
Before this I asked Rolovich a vax question. He said, "I still plan on following the mandate and doing what I need to be to be the coach here. That's all I can say about that." pic.twitter.com/Q6qNqu6PwY
Daniels continued with the questions even as Rolovich’s responses got shorter. He asked what Rolovich had to say to fans, students, and faculty who are upset that he has not come out and said that he got the shot or not. His response: “uh... I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say here.” Daniels then brought up the fact that many people are calling for him to get fired or suspended, he responded with “okay.”
When Rolovich was hired, many fans were excited, myself included. I hopped out of bed at 10:00 pm on a week night to head to a bar in Seattle when I found out he was at Marco Polo buying beers and talking and meeting with fans. I wanted to meet the new coach who seemed like a great hire, someone who understood what we all came to love about Pullman — the small town family community that loves to drink beer and talk about their Cougs. His response to the fans by saying “uh.. I’m sorry” and “okay” doesn’t cut it. It’s disappointing that these are the responses to the people that drive hours and hours through wheat fields across the state weekly to see him coach our Cougs.
Rolovich would go on to avoid the question when Daniels asked him once more if he had scheduled a time to receive the shot or if he had already received the shot. Rolovich responded saying “I’m not going to answer that Chris and we’re going to move forward with USC at this point.”
During this interview, Rolovoich sat in front of a banner that had the Pullman Regional Hospital logo all over it. While answering questions he avoided looking at the camera and kept his focus down at the paperwork on the desk.
On a more positive note not about head coaches, Travell Harris was named Pac-12 special teams player of the week on Monday following the Cougars 44-24 victory over Portland State. The senior receiver had a 50-yard kick return that set the Cougars up for a three play drive resulting in a touchdown. He added another 58 yards on three punt returns including a career long 22-yard return. He added another 80 yards on six receptions and two touchdowns.
Washington State kick returner/punt returner Travell Harris was named the Pac-12 Conference Special Teams Player of the Week, the conference office announced Monday
Washington State wraps up its season-opening three-game homestand Saturday against USC at Gesa Field. Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. on FOX.
Southern California football head coach Clay Helton has been fired, athletic director Mike Bohn announced Monday. The decision comes two days after the Trojans, who began the season with conference-title aspirations, were embarrassed in a 42-28 home defeat to Stanford.
Just a few hours after one of Nick Rolovich’s close colleagues in the coaching world was fired for not receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, the second-year Washington State coach still did not clarify at a weekly news conference how he plans to move forward with 36 days until Gov. Jay Inslee’s Oct. 18 deadline.
Nick Rolovich’s press conference on Monday started pretty tame, but ended up being anything but.