With the deadline for achieving full vaccination status now just over a month away for Washington State coach Nick Rolovich, the external pressure is ramping up on the Cougars coach, who has only ever said that he intends to comply with the governor’s mandate.
This has led some to speculate that Rolovich might be intending to pursue a religious or medical exemption, and Seattle Times reporter Scott Hanson investigated what that might actually entail.
Nobody at WSU would speak to Rolovich’s specific situation — for obvious reasons — but WSU spokesperson Phil Weiler did offer a bit of clarity about the options that might be in play. We know that failure to secure an exemption in lieu of being vaccinated by October 18 will result in his termination. However, this is the first time we’ve heard this little nugget:
“There is a possibility (a university employee) can receive an exemption but have that exemption not be valid based on the job you perform,” Weiler said.
Again, this doesn’t necessarily mean it will apply to Rolovich — it’s a virtual certainty that Weiler meant it as a general statement — but it does open up the possibility that Rolovich (or any coach) could be fired even with an exemption, which would likely set up a protracted legal battle for the university.
At this point, it might be a battle the university is willing to wage.
All that being said ... Weiler also detailed the process for determining whether there actually are “sincerely held religious beliefs” or medical factors in play, and it’s not as simple as checking a box and getting rubber stamped. The way he describes it, it sounds like some people probably ought to prepare for the possibility that their exemption application will be rejected.
“Simply saying, ‘It’s against my religion’ is not sufficient to qualify for a religious exemption,” Weiler said.
“You have to explain what are the tenets of your religion that prevent you from receiving a vaccine,” Weiler said. “Another question that is asked is: Have you ever received a vaccine or sought medical care as an adult? It seems to me that if you have a long-held religious conviction against receiving vaccines, and you can prove that and can demonstrate that the religion you follow has that as a tenet of the religion, then you would qualify.”
He did note that applications will be “blindly” reviewed, which seems very smart from an HR perspective.
It’s also worth noting that one coach has already lost his job over a denied vaccine exemption: The Naval Academy recently fired its QB coach, Billy Ray Stutzmann. If the name sounds familiar, his brother is WSU QB coach/co-offensive coordinator Craig Stutzmann. Both of them have connections to Rolovich through Hawaii.
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