PULLMAN – Nick Rolovich was the recipient of a yellow Gatorade bath near the 50-yard line moments after Washington State held on to beat Stanford 34-31 Saturday night at Gesa Field.
Whether he’ll still be Washington State’s head football coach come Monday is a question Rolovich himself was still unable to answer as he discussed the Cougars’ third consecutive Pac-12 victory with reporters on a Zoom call Saturday night.
“I do not (know),” Rolovich said. “I don’t have my phone, I didn’t check my email after the game.”
State employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday, or have received a religious or medical exemption, in order to avoid being terminated according to a mandate from Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Employers still have the option to terminate a worker whose exemption is granted if it’s determined they can’t do their job effectively without the vaccine.
Rolovich, who confirmed a week earlier he’d filed for a religious exemption in lieu of receiving the state-required vaccine, hadn’t received word from the university as to whether his exemption was granted and hasn’t spoken to school administration about whether they’d accommodate the second-year coach if the exemption is successful.
“I think I’m waiting on an email, that’s as far as I know,” Rolovich said.
Asked if administrators have lent any insight as to which way they’d lean on an accommodation for Rolovich, the coach said “no.” He also didn’t indicate whether he’d seek that information out and said he wouldn’t treat the next few days any differently as the 4-3 Cougars prepare for a nonconference test against BYU.
“I’m going to come to work tomorrow, going to get ready for BYU and we’ll grade this film,” Rolovich said. “I don’t think this is in my hands, so I’ve been settled for a long time on it and I just believe it’s going to work out the right way.”
Though Rolovich doesn’t have answers about his future, he conveyed a sense of optimism as he spoke to reporters.
“If that’s not what (athletic director Pat Chun) wants, then I guess I’ve got to move on,” Rolovich said. “But I like being here, I like being the coach here, I love these kids and I’ve just got faith in it.”
When a reporter asked Rolovich if he’d consider taking a vaccine if it enables him to preserve his job, the coach said “if that happens, you’ll be the first to know.”
Rolovich might not be the only WSU coach anticipating an email clarifying their exemption status in the coming days. On Saturday, he was one of five WSU coaches wearing a mask on the home sideline. Unvaccinated coaches are required to wear masks at games and practices while vaccinated coaches are not. Along with Rolovich, quarterbacks coach Craig Stutzmann, offensive line coach Mark Weber, defensive line coach Ricky Logo and cornerbacks coach John Richardson were all seen wearing masks.
After the game, players suggested the national conversation surrounding Rolovich hasn’t been a disruption and most who’ve spoken to reporters in recent weeks have given their head coach full-fledged endorsements.
Wide receiver Travell Harris ran directly to Rolovich when Saturday’s game ended, jumping onto the coach’s shoulders before embracing him.
“It means a lot, having a coach that, first of all he’s a players coach and he truly understands us as players,” Harris said. “He’s an outstanding coach, man. It’s a coach we all love to play for and we honor him.”
Both Harris and running back Max Borghi said the topic of Rolovich’s vaccination status hasn’t permeated WSU’s locker room and players have been able to stay focused on game preparations. Saturday, they were focused on celebrating a fifth-straight win over Stanford.
“We’re not focused on that, we’re here to celebrate this win tonight and we’re glad with what we did tonight,” Borghi said. “We’re going to celebrate our win and just take it to next week with confidence and learn from everything we can grow from.”
Added Harris: “We’ve really just been locked in on Stanford and we’re focused on BYU. I’m just thankful we got the win, man, and I’m focused on BYU to be honest.”
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