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Sports >  WSU football

33 for 33: Get to know new Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich

Jan. 13, 2020 Updated Mon., Jan. 13, 2020 at 11:01 p.m.

Nick Rolovich, whose run-and-shoot offense helped turn around the Hawaii football program, is set to replace Mike Leach at Washington State, becoming the 33rd head coach in Cougar history.

Following are 33 things you may not know about the incoming coach:

  • 1. Hawaii’s offenses have often had to carry the weight for the Rainbow Warriors’ inconsistent defenses. The Rainbow Warriors gave up at least 50 points 11 times in Rolovich’s four seasons – something that happened just three times during the same span at WSU.
  • 2. The 40-year-old is married to Analea, a Maui native who met Rolovich while the two were attending UH. Rolovich and his wife have four children – a son Daniel, a daughter Alana and twin sons, William and Patrick.
  • 3. Despite his success in Honolulu, Rolovich was only the Mountain West’s eighth highest-paid coach, matching UNLV’s Tony Sanchez with an annual salary of $600,000.
  • 4. Once, at Hawaii’s spring game, Rolovich showed up wearing a clown costume, bringing a “wig, confetti tubes and a backpack full of goodies,” per Rolovich is also known to dress as a turkey on Thanksgiving, often chased around by his young kids.
  • 5. WSU’s pipeline to City College of San Francisco was already robust. It could get stronger now. The school that produced Anthony Gordon, Shalom Luani, Robert Taylor, Easop Winston Jr., Robert Valencia and Derrick Langford is where Rolovich spent his first two collegiate seasons, as a quarterback for the Rams, and returned in 2006-07 to coach the position at CCSF, tutoring future Hawaii/Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli.
  • 6. In 2003, Rolovich helped lead the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe to an appearance in the World XI championship, completing 14-of-19 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown in a loss to the Frankfurt Galaxy.
  • 7. A photographer from the Star-Advertiser in Hawaii alleged Rolovich swore at him as another school employee pushed him to the ground after Hawaii’s game against San Diego State. The photographer was trying to snap a picture of the postgame handshake between Rolovich and Rocky Long when the incident occurred.
  • 8. Two years ago, Rolovich adopted the run-and-shoot offense at Hawaii – a staple in Honolulu under former coach June Jones – and the Rainbow Warriors saw their offensive numbers skyrocket. Hawaii scored 28.3 points per game in Rolovich’s first season and 22.8 in 2017, then boosted those numbers to 30.8 in 2018 and 33.9 in 2019.
  • 9. Well before WSU, Ohio State and USC showed interest in Jayden de Laura, the Saint Louis High quarterback received his first college offer from Rolovich and UH, in May of 2018.
  • 10. Saint Louis has employed the run-and-shoot for decades, with QBs like de Laura, Tua Tagovailoa and Marcus Mariota.
  • 11. Darrel “Mouse” Davis is to the run-and-shoot what Hal Mumme is to the Air Raid. Davis grew up a pebble throw away from WSU’s campus, in the town of Palouse, and coached receivers at Hawaii while Rolovich was the Warriors’ OC and QB coach.
  • 12. Speaking of Air Raid founders, there’s a connection between WSU’s last coach and its new one. As documented by The Athletic, Rolovich traveled to Key West, Florida, in 2018 to gain some insight on how Leach was able to maintain his offensive identity. “Ignore what people say and try to score the best way you can,” Leach said.
  • 13. In the same story, it was noted that Rolovich also traveled to Sacramento, California, to spend time with UC Davis coach Dan Hawkins, who gave Rolovich helpful insight on how to run a program over coffee.
  • 14. Expect Rolovich to heighten WSU’s recruiting efforts in Hawaii and American Samoa. The Rainbow Warriors’ roster was comprised of 56 players from those places.
  • 15. Rolovich’s 2019 team at Hawaii went 2-1 against the Pac-12, beating Arizona 45-38 in the season opener and 31-28 against Oregon State in week two before losing 52-20 at Washington in week three.
  • 16. Rolovich was born in Daly City, California, and grew up in nearby Novato, playing football and baseball at Marin Catholic High – the same school that produced Dan Fouts and Jared Goff.
  • 17. In December, after leading Hawaii to the West division title, Rolovich was tabbed at the Mountain West’s Coach of the Year – the first time a UH received such distinction.
  • 18. After transferring to Hawaii from CCSF, Rolovich won QB1 duties for the Warriors before relinquishing the job to NCAA record-holder Timmy Chang. Rolovich took the job back in 2001 when Chang broke his wrist, led Hawaii to 8-1 and guided the Warriors to a 72-45 upset win of ninth-ranked BYU.
  • 19. In his four seasons at the University of Nevada as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, the Wolf Pack went to three bowl games and averaged 30 points per game.
  • 20. After Hawaii’s game at Boise State this season, Rolovich met up with a longtime Twitter acquaintance, Ryan Wilhelm, who runs a parody account for BSU coach Bryan Harsin. Rolovich and Wilhelm have been social media friends for years and the coach, according to The Athletic, popped over to Wilhelm’s Boise home for a cup of cocoa after the Broncos’ 59-37 win over the Warriors.
  • 21. Rolovich doesn’t have the same social media following as his WSU predecessor, but he’s just as active on Twitter as Leach, if not more so. The coach’s latest tweet? A poll, in which @NickRolovich posed a thought to fans while watching North Dakota State versus James Madison in the FCS title game, “Not sure if I’m more in love with this Qb play in the FCS championship or the woodchuck commercial.”
  • 22. During Gordon’s record-breaking senior season with the Cougars, one of the players he surpassed for single season passing yardage was Hawaii’s Bryant Moniz, who threw for 5,040 yards in 2010 while Rolovich was the program’s OC/QB coach.
  • 23. Rolovich has one brother, Jack, who played briefly at Hawaii before transferring to Montana State, where he spent 1 1/2 seasons as the Bobcats’ starting quarterback. The coach also has a sister, Kristen.
  • 24. When he started at Hawaii, Rolovich was creating the practice playlists for the Rainbow Warriors. As he got busier, Rolovich eventually delegated the disk jockey duties to someone else.
  • 25. On a “Beyond the Lines” segment for Today on ThinkTech Hawaii, Rolovich cited San Francisco 49ers Hall of Famer Joe Montana as his childhood idol and the person “who inspired me to be a quarterback.”
  • 26. In January of 2019, Rolovich tweeted out photos of Oregon State recruiting envelopes and spring game invitations that were addressed to players on his Hawaii team. The Beavers admitted to the mishap and were given a secondary NCAA violation. Three of Rolovich’s former assistants are on Jonathan Smith’s staff in Corvallis.
  • 27. In addition to the bachelor’s degree he received at Hawaii, Rolovich also owns a master’s in human performance and sport, obtained at New Mexico Highlands in 2007.
  • 28. The Rainbow Warriors, like the Cougars, had two players selected in the 2019 NFL Draft: linebacker Jahlani Tavani (second round, Detroit) and wide receiver John Ursua (seventh round, Seattle).
  • 29. Rolovich has been known to bring unique guests to the annual Mountain West Media Days in Las Vegas. Last season, he invited a Vegas-bases tarot card reader to the event after bringing Elvis Presley and Britney Spears impersonators in years prior.
  • 30. Rolovich is 40 years old – the same age Jim Walden and Paul Wulff were when both accepted the head coaching job in Pullman.
  • 31. The former Arena Football League quarterback spent two seasons as a backup to Mark Grieb with the San Jose SaberCats and was part of the team’s 2004 league championship.
  • 32. Despite Hawaii’s commitment to the pass, the Rainbow Warriors found ways to work in the run. They finished second nationally behind only WSU with 635 pass attempts and while the Cougars finished last with 210 rushing attempts, Rolovich’s team was more balanced, with 421 attempts on the ground, and finished second in total plays (1,056)
  • 33. The Rainbow Warriors were also top-20 nationally in total offense (13th), passing offense (5th), third down percentage (12th) and first downs (4th).
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