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Washington State University fires head football coach for refusing Covid-19 vaccine

“This is a disheartening day for our football program,” a school official said.

Washington State University fired its head football coach after he refused to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the school said Monday.

Coach Nick Rolovich, whose salary of $3.1 million made him the highest-paid public employee in Washington, was fired as a state Covid vaccination mandate was set to go into effect requiring health care workers, public employees and others to get inoculated.

“This is a disheartening day for our football program,” the university’s director of athletics, Pat Chun, said in a statement. “Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team.”

Four assistant coaches were also fired for noncompliance with the mandate, the school said in a statement. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will replace Rolovich as acting head coach.

University President Kirk Schulz said that while a minority of vaccination resisters have gotten outsize attention, 90 percent of university employees and 97 percent of students have been vaccinated.

“I am proud of all those members of our community who have set the example,” he said.

Rolovich, who was in his second season at Washington State and had led the team to 4-3 record this year, had applied for an exemption but was denied, Chun told reporters Monday. He was fired for cause, Chun said, adding that the mandate made him no longer eligible to work at the school.

Rolovich couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Before the Pac-12 conference required that in-person participants be inoculated earlier this year, he said he was skipping vaccination for “reasons which will remain private.”

“While I have made my own decision, I respect that every individual — including coaches, staff and student-athletes — can make his or her own decision regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. I will not comment further on my decision,” he said.

Rolovich, who was named Mountain West Conference coach of the year in 2019, when he was at the University of Hawaii, was hired in January 2020.

"We believed we found the perfect fit," Chun said. "To be at this juncture today is unacceptable on so many levels."