Unless you’re a pretty hard core college football fan, you probably had never heard of former Hawaii Warriors head coach Nick Rolovich before his name was floated in connection with the Washington State Cougars job, for which he was hired today.
And even if you had heard of Rolovich, you probably didn’t — and still don’t — know all that much about him.
We covered some of his coaching accomplishments previously, but let’s fix some of those other gaps you’ve got.
He’s a former record-setting quarterback
Rolovich, who is from the Bay Area in California, launched his college football career in 1998 with two seasons at City College of San Francisco — the same junior college that produced Anthony Gordon.
After that, he went on to Hawaii to play for June Jones. He didn’t play much in his junior season, sitting behind freshman sensation Timmy Chang. But after Chang suffered an injury in the third game of 2001, Rolovich took over a team that was 1-2 and led them to nine wins in their final 10 games. Captaining Jones’ version of the Run and Shoot offense, he ended his career with three consecutive 500-yard games in which Hawaii scored 50-plus points in each — including 573 yards and 8 TDs in a 72-45 bowl win over the undefeated and No. 9 BYU Cougars.
He broke 19 school passing and eight total offense records; he still holds six passing records at Hawaii, a school that has produced some incredibly prolific QBs.
He chased his dream as a player
After exhausting his eligibility at Hawaii, Rolovich kicked around the Denver Broncos’ training camp before being cut after the preseason. He followed that with one-year stint in NFL Europe with the Rhein Fire:
Sadly, I could not find any highlights. He then played for four teams in five seasons in the Arena Football League (San Jose SaberCats, Arizona Rattlers, Chicago Rush, Las Vegas Gladiators). Also couldn’t find any highlights of that. Sorry!
He’s spent most of his adult life doing football on the island of Oahu
- 2000-01: QB
- 2003-04: Student assistant
- 2008-11: QB coach, offensive coordinator
- 2016-19: Head coach
That’s 12 years! During that time, he either played in or coached the Run and Shoot offense. This will be relevant later.
But he took a break for four years to be the OC at Nevada
When Norm Chow was hired to replace Greg McMackin as head coach of Hawaii, Rolovich wasn’t offered a job on Chow’s staff:
“He said it’s probably best for your future to get off the island and learn a new system and get in a new environment,” Rolovich said in 2012, early in his tenure at Nevada. “And he was right. Right now he’s sounding like a pretty good prophet. Coming here has widened my football knowledge immensely. It’s almost two polar opposites. It reinvigorated me. I feel refreshed.”
The most notable thing is that Rolovich was hired by Chris Ault, inventor and master of the Pistol offense. He only spent one year under Ault, but when Brian Polian was promoted to head coach in the second year, Rolovich remained in charge of the Pistol. His time running that offense has influenced his current take on the Run and Shoot.
Fun fact: He was the offensive coordinator when Nevada beat WSU in Reno in 2014! Now let’s never speak of that again.
He remade his offense with the help of Mike Leach(!)
Rolovich is now known as an offensive mastermind, but ... well, not even Rolovich was convinced of that a few years ago. Nevada’s offense had declined under his leadership, and his offense the first two years at Hawaii weren’t great: Just 74th and 89th in SP+ (an opponent-adjusted efficiency metric). He was unsatisfied.
So, he sought out some advice. One person he sat down with back in 2018? WSU coach Mike Leach. According to The Athletic:
Leach had pretty straightforward guidance for Rolovich: “Ignore what people say and try to score the best way you can,” Leach said.
He went on: “Having success in anything really doesn’t involve a lot of worrying about what somebody might think, otherwise all you are is everybody else. And, if all you are is everybody else, then everybody else is pretty easy to find and everyone will do as well as you will.”
Additionally, he sat down with UC-Davis coach Dan Hawkins — who also led Boise State and Colorado once upon a time — and Hawkins’ advice was to “be who you are.”
So Rolovich, child of the Run and Shoot, ditched the offense he had been running that strove for a 50-50 run/pass balance and went whole hog back into the pass-happy offense that he knows best. And the results were positive: From 89th to 63rd to 30th nationally last season in SP+.
He’s a high-energy coach
And as you can see, he’s also pretty funny!
This carries over to Twitter, which you will soon see he likes to use. Example:
Whoever signed me up for https://t.co/mHYD7BwtvW, you are a mean person and I hope Santa puts you on the Naughty list. @FakeCoachHarsin is suspect #1, and will be questioned after his bowl game. Leave any other possible suspects in the replies please. Mahalo— Nick Rolovich (@NickRolovich) December 21, 2019
My apologies for our players not being able to attend your Spring game. Ours was the same day, bad timing. Quick question, in the 203 years of coaching, none of you realized you couldn’t actively recruit another school’s players? Sent to campus? #leakydam #sloppybeavers pic.twitter.com/2djcmgFbLH
— Nick Rolovich (@NickRolovich) May 4, 2018
After opening last season by beating the Arizona Wildcats, Rolovich tweeted this ...
... and then, after he exacted his revenge on OSU by beating the Beavers the next week to move to 2-0 against the Pac-12, he tweeted this:
He’s relentless in drawing attention to his program
Rolovich once tried to bring a monkey to MWC media day, but instead settled for an Elvis impersonator. The next year, he brought a Britney Spears impersonator, and the year after that, he brought a fortune teller.
Our old friend @NickRolovich brought a fortune teller to media days this year. We won't spoil exactly what she told @LucasWeber24, just be ready for a great year of football. #BattleBorn // #NevadaGrit pic.twitter.com/pEPER74YsV— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) July 23, 2019
He loves his surprise scholarship announcements
Rolovich is well known for his elaborate plans to surprise walk-ons when they’re put on scholarship. Like this: