Washington State’s Nick Rolovich fired over failure to adhere to state’s vaccine mandate

Washington State will play without head coach Nick Rolovich, who refused to be vaccinated and didn’t have his religious exemption approved.

Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich walks the sideline during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Southern California in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Two losses aside, on Monday, BYU started prep for Washington State in hopes of being able to get out of the current rut it has found itself in. But that prep may change considering what’s going on at Washington State.

The Washington State Cougars have fired their head coach Nick Rolovich due to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate placed back in August by the state of Washington.

According to The Oregonian newspaper, Rolovich and other unvaccinated assistant coaches were terminated Monday afternoon.

The mandate extended to K-12 and higher education institutions, which meant Rolovich needed to show proof of vaccination by Monday or have had a medical or religious exemption approved by the Oct. 18 deadline. Rolovich has been clear he does not wish to be vaccinated, instead opting to continue to wear a face mask and socially distance (he skipped out on attending the Pac-12 media day in-person and attended virtually instead), and has submitted a religious exemption waiver.

According to multiple reports, the Cougar players met with Washington State athletic director Pat Chun Monday evening to discuss the situation.

It’s a lot to take in for a team that is on a three-game win streak, but BYU coach Kalani Sitake said it shouldn’t change anything in terms of preparation for his Cougars.

In fact, Sitake said he’s been so engulfed in his own football season that he just recently learned of the situation with Rolovich in Pullman, Wash.

“I know coach Rolo — he’s a good coach and he’s got a really good staff,” Sitake said before news of the coach’s dismissal broke. “I’m not sure I’m an expert enough [on the current situation] to comment on that. I’m trying to get our team to get off of this stinking losing streak that’s frustrating me right now. All my attention is on that.”

If the Provo Cougars hope to break their two-game skid, their entire focus will have to be on fixing their own mistakes that have cost them to go from a Top 10-ranked team to being unranked in a matter of just two weeks.

According to Sitake, everything is on the table to try to right the ship. The sixth-year coach said he’s willing to alter personnel and schemes. At the end of the day, Sitake wants to put the best team possible on the field come Saturday.

“Let’s get the best 11 out there, we’re going to match up,” Sitake said. “Washington State’s a much different matchup than Baylor. Baylor just decided to go big and shove the run down our throat, and we didn’t respond the right way. So, if Washington State decides to do that, fine. But we’ve got to toughen up.”

Linebacker Ben Bywater said the morale of the team isn’t optimal right now, but the Cougars aren’t disappointed or down with themselves.

“Obviously we’re frustrated, we know we can play better, so I’m grateful for Mondays,” Bywater said. “After a loss like that, there are always lessons to learn from. … Being physical is No. 1. And then, No. 2 is just going out and playing our ball, like we did the first five games. If we do that, I have full faith that we’re going to make it happen.”