A Washington State football player, redshirt sophomore receiver Kassidy Woods, believes his decision to join the Pac-12’s player-led unity group may jeopardize his long-term future with the Cougars’ football program after a phone conversation with head coach Nick Rolovich on Saturday.
During the conversation, Woods voices concerns about playing football amid the COVID-19 pandemic due to preexisting health conditions, choosing to formally opt out of the 2020 season. Rolovich assures Woods he’ll be able to retain his scholarship, but indicates he’ll have to clean out his locker and would not be able to participate in football-related activities going forward – common protocol when a player opts out of playing for health reasons.
Rolovich and Woods also spoke about the Pac-12 unity group. Multiple times during the conversation, the coach seems to indicate Woods’ participation in the unity group would impact his future with the football program at WSU beyond this year, saying “There’s one way we’ll handle (the opt out) if it’s COVID related, then there’s one way we’re going to handle it if it’s joining this group.”
Multiple reports indicated Rolovich addressed the situation in a team meeting Monday and WSU released a statement from the coach Monday evening, saying he was regretful his words were “construed as opposition” and that he was supportive of Cougar players using their platform for matters they’re passionate about.
“I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns. Kassidy informed me he was opting out of this season for health and safety concerns. I wanted to clarify with Kassidy that his decision was based on health and safety and reaffirm our policy related to COVID-19 and the assurance of his scholarship.
“Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition. I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons.”
Audio from the five-minute phone call between Rolovich and Woods was obtained by The S-R. Below is a transcript of the conversation recorded by the player.
Rolovich: “Kass, how are you doing?”
Woods: “I’m doing good.”
Rolovich: “What’s up?”
Woods: “I just wanted to inform you I’ll be opting out to playing in the season. I just wanted to give you a heads-up so you won’t be caught blindsided by it. But the reasoning behind it is concerns with my health. Because I’m pretty sure you probably don’t know, I have sickle cell and with all this COVID stuff, it affects the respiratory system. And we really, really don’t know much about the virus within itself, so I feel there’s not enough in place for me to be safe and for sure I would be able to play. So, that’s the main reason I’m opting out.”
Rolovich: “I got nothing wrong with that. That’s why I told you, I don’t care. Now are you going to be joining that Pac-12 football unity group, is that what it is?”
Woods: “Yes sir.”
Rolovich: “So that’s going to be an issue if you align with them as far as future stuff, right? Because the COVID stuff is one thing, but joining this group is going to put you on a – obviously you get to keep your scholarship this year, but it’s going to be different. If you say, ‘I’m opting out because of COVID and health and safety, I’m good, but this group is going to change I guess how things go in the future for everybody. At least at our school. So just think about that. If it’s about getting paid and dot, dot, dot, fight racial injustice and that stuff, then there’s two sides here. I’m good with sickle cell and the COVID, but this group is going to be at a different level as far as how we’re going to kind of move forward in the future, I think. Does that make sense?”
Woods: “Yes sir.”
Rolovich: “OK. There’s one way we’ll handle it if it’s COVID related, then there’s one way we’re going to handle it if it’s joining this group. So, I appreciate you letting me know and I was going to address this tomorrow night at the Zoom. So, no, I appreciate you telling me. I’ve got nothing wrong with that. Are you going to go home?”