The saga of the football coach who wouldn’t get a required vaccine put Washington State University’s leaders in an uncomfortable spotlight for months.

Because now-fired coach Nick Rolovich refused to get his COVID-19 inoculation without deigning to openly discuss it, he became a problem for university president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun to manage. They were right to shed this employee once his public evasions hit the hard Oct. 18 deadline for state employees to be vaccinated.

Rolovich’s stubbornness proved he was not the leader Schulz and Chun thought they hired in pre-pandemic 2020. The team and the school suffered because Rolovich took this ordeal to the absolute limit and sought a personal exemption from the broad and necessary requirement. Holding the line and treating him like 1,900 now-former Washington state employees who fought the vaccine mandate was no easy call to make mid-football season, but it was the right thing to do.

The $3.2 million-per-year coach was responsible for leading more than 130 student-athletes and about three dozen professional support staff. Rolovich failed every one of them with his obstinacy, especially the four fired assistant coaches his position helped embolden into their own refusals. 

Now they, like Rolovich, have résumés marred by public defiance of workplace requirements, public health and common sense. Even among this crowd, Rolovich’s poor decisions stand out. The coach was only hours out of his job when, through an attorney, he started grandstanding that he’d sue the school over being fired “merely for being devout in his Catholic faith.” 

It’s been a busy year, and Rolovich might not be up on the emphasis the Catholic Chuch has placed on vaccination throughout, beginning with Pope Francis’ Jan. 1 homily and continuing through the Vatican’s vaccine requirements for employees and visitors. The coach could have missed Francis’ January statement that COVID-19 vaccination is a moral obligation. Rolovich would have been busy in August prepping the Cougars for the season when the pope called vaccination “an act of love.” The season was in full swing in September, when Francis said vaccine resistance is “a bit strange.”

Rolovich has cost WSU enough already and shouldn’t add to the cost by dragging out such a pointless lawsuit. The terms of employment could not have been plainer, and he refused to perform them. Both community safety and his mentor’s advice to “take one for the team” failed to persuade Rolovich. He deserves no reward, just a goodbye.

Schulz and Chun’s tough but necessary decision should help guide decision-making in the search for the next permanent Cougars coach. Another hire cut from the same cloth of selfishness would be a serious mistake.