Fans share wide range of emotions on Rolovich firing at WSU game
Oct. 23, 2021 Updated Sat., Oct. 23, 2021 at 8 p.m.
Washington State University football fan Alica Tobin, of Yakima, supports fired head coach Nick Rolovich during tailgating Saturday. Tobin said she is pro-choice and not against the vaccine. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Nick Rolovich quit on his team. He showed leadership. He made a decision and faced the consequences.
Those were some of the attitudes Washington State University students, alumni and fans shared about the former Cougars head football coach who lost his job Monday after failing to comply with Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Rolovich was terminated for cause because he is “no longer able to fulfill the duties as the head football coach at Washington State University,” according to a school release. Rolovich plans to sue the university.
Athletic director Pat Chun said Monday the university decided it would not be possible to accommodate Rolovich’s religious exemption request. State educational employees were required to be either fully vaccinated or have an exemption approval by Monday.
“I can’t remember a time when a Cougar made a more selfish move than what Rolovich did,” said Mike Sodorff, a WSU alumnus who added that the decision hurts “the whole Cougar nation.”
Dan Scott, a Cougars alum who was tailgating with Sodorff on Saturday prior to the Cougars’ home game against Brigham Young University, said Rolovich should have been vaccinated for his team.
“He made a big mistake,” Scott said.
Others at Saturday’s game saw it differently.
Steve Carlson and Mike Tobin each displayed a large cardboard sign that said, “FIRE PAT CHUN,” in front of their RVs in the tailgating parking lot across from Gesa Field, WSU’s football field.
Alicia Tobin, Mike Tobin’s wife and a Cougars alum, made the signs. She said she also created signs that said, “We love Rolo” and “Pat Chun is not a Coug.”
“I don’t think people should lose their jobs by not getting a jab,” Alicia Tobin said.
Mike Tobin, an alum who said he has only missed five Cougars football home games since 1985, said he believes Chun wanted Rolovich gone after Rolovich did not attend Pac-12 media day over the summer in Los Angeles because of the conference’s mandate that all attendees be vaccinated. Rolovich instead participated remotely.
“I think that that started an infection and something that just continued to fester,” Mike Tobin said.
Carlson said Rolovich and others losing their jobs because of the state mandate is wrong.
“These are people’s livelihood,” Carlson said. “They have families and the governor is taking their careers away from them, and it’s very sad and it’s terrible.”
He said Rolovich showed “true leadership.”
“He’s a great leader because he stood behind what he wanted and he was willing to risk his job and career for what he felt,” Carlson said.
Alicia Tobin said she is 100% behind the players.
“This is bigger than Rolovich,” she said. “It’s bigger than WSU. What Rolovich is doing is taking a stance to protect every American’s civil liberties.”
Chalese Braman, another WSU alum and tailgater, said she will support the interim head coach, defensive coordinator Jake Dickert, and the student-athletes.
“As a coach, you’re there to lead your team, and to leave your boys behind and quit like (Rolovich) quit his boys, and they’re the ones working hard and grinding every weekend, and we’re here to support them,” Braman said.
Finn Beer, a Pullman High School senior, said Rolovich should have received the vaccine and disagreed with Rolovich’s decision to file a lawsuit against the university.
Micah Moody, a WSU sophomore who attended Saturday’s game, said he didn’t think Rolovich made a right or wrong decision, and that Rolovich knew he faced losing his job if he did not get vaccinated.
“I think that his decision was his own,” Moody said. “He kind of put the nail in his own coffin.”
While there was plenty of buzz this past week about Rolovich’s departure from the team, it had quieted by Saturday’s game. Few or no fans held signs regarding Rolovich or the university’s handling of the situation, nor did they appear to wear anything that referenced the conflict between Rolovich and the university.
BYU beat WSU 21-19.
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