Former Washington State coach Nick Rolovich is finally speaking out about his reasoning for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine in 2021 and the "ugly conversations" he says occurred with school administrators that led up to his firing.
Rolovich, in his first public comments since his firing, told Allison Williams, the host of The Daily Wire's Breakaways, in an interview published on Friday that "lack of answers, lack of dialogue" about the effects of the vaccine, as well as his beliefs as a Catholic, led him to not comply with Gov. Jay Inslee's mandate for Washington state employees.
Washington State fired Rolovich and four other assistant coaches last October for failing to comply with a state mandate to receive the vaccine. The school fired Rolovich for cause, preventing him from receiving the approximately $9 million remaining on his contract. Earlier this year, Rolovich filed a $25 million wrongful termination claim against the school.
"The priest broke it down to me, because he wanted to know why, and I said, 'This is just how I'm feeling,' and he says, 'Well, that's your conscience talking to you and the Catholic church recognizes your conscience,'" Rolovich told The Daily Wire. "That was what was speaking to me the whole time. It was real hard because I was unvaccinated, couldn't meet with the [players]. I'm stuck in my office all day. It was really unhealthy for me, but I have no regrets on my decision."
He said his only regret was not revealing publicly, while still at Washington State, that he wouldn't get the vaccine for religious reasons.
"I thought as football coach, you don't need to talk about politics, you don't need to talk about religion, you don't need to talk about medical," Rolovich said. "That was all kind of off limits. For our staff. I just said, 'You're for it, you're against it. I don't care.' It just got real strange, real fast."
According to Rolovich, Washington State athletic director Pat Chun eventually outlined his options when he would not comply with the vaccine mandate.
"[Chun] said, 'You got four options: resign, get the vax, get a medical exemption, get religious exemption,'" Rolovich told The Daily Wire's Allison Williams, a former ESPN reporter who left the network because of Disney's vaccine mandate for employees. "I'm not getting the shot. I'm not resigning. I'm not going to get a medical because I could go get a fake card, easy, but then I'd be lying. ... I'm going to do a religious [exemption]. And they both said 'We're not going to believe you, you know, the governor's not happy with you.'"
Rolovich said Washington State's human resources department approved his religious exemption request, but it then went to Chun, his supervisor, who wrote a letter questioning Rolovich's belief in science. Rolovich told Williams he thought Chun "helped" in getting his exemption request ultimately denied.
When reached by ESPN, Chun and Washington State declined to comment on Rolovich's allegations.
Rolovich also addressed a presentation Dr. Guy Palmer, a WSU regents professor of pathology and infectious diseases, gave to the athletic department about the COVID vaccine. Rolovich said after several "planted questions" from athletic department employees, David Fox, Washington State's director of football operations, asked Palmer about the effects of the vaccine for women trying to get pregnant. Rolovich alleged that Fox's comments upset Chun, who two weeks later said he wasn't renewing Fox's employment.
"I already said to renew him, I was happy with the job he did," Rolovich said. "[Chun] says three or four times [Fox is] an at-will employee. And I call [Chun] an F---ing coward and walked out. That's when it really started getting bad between me and Pat."
Rolovich did not address a 1-on-1 meeting WSU arranged for him with Palmer, who told ESPN that Rolovich had "major hesitancy" about the vaccine and asked questions commonly linked to conspiracy theorists.
"Kind of typical ones: Is Bill Gates involved with the vaccines? Does [Gates] hold a patent on the vaccines?" Palmer told ESPN. "He asked whether SV40 is in the vaccines and whether that could be a dangerous thing. And the answer to that is no."
Rolovich told Williams that he's waiting on a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to continue his legal action against Washington State. He said he's not sure if he can get another job in coaching yet, but noted that others, such as frontline workers living "check to check," sacrificed more than he did, adding, "It's just not a real good look on our society."
"A lot of people called me, texted me, [saying] 'I'll take 10 shots for that money,'" Rolovich said. "That's great, I won't, not right now with what we know and how I feel. Sitting here seven months later, to me, God was right, trusting that feeling and that belief really did end up helping me out."