PULLMAN — Pressed to clarify his stance on Washington’s most recent COVID-19 mandate, Nick Rolovich wouldn’t budge.
For the second time in as many days, the Washington State football coach declined to explicitly say whether he would receive a vaccination or seek an exemption in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s edict, which requires higher education employees to be fully inoculated by Oct. 18, or risk losing their jobs. Exemptions are strictly limited to medical and religious reasons.
“I’m gonna follow the mandate,” Rolovich said three times Friday after practice at Rogers Field in response to separate, pointed questions — he had given the same reply the day before when asked if he would get the shot.
He sidestepped the question of whether he planned to receive a vaccine, then refused to explain why he won’t elaborate.
Rolovich, the state’s highest-paid employee at about $3.2 million, was also asked if he has given thought to the message he’s sending by not being fully transparent, considering his leadership position at the land-grant research university. He again said he’d follow the mandate.
Another question concerned the Delta variant, and if Rolovich’s personal feelings regarding the pandemic have changed in light of the spread and severity of the new strain.
“I appreciate (the question), but I’m gonna follow the mandate, what they tell me to do,” he said.
Rolovich sparked controversy and made national headlines July 21, when he tweeted that he would not receive a coronavirus vaccine for “private” reasons. Various commentators, WSU followers and others have been involved in a constant cycle of heated debate about Rolovich’s decision for the past month.
According to a school spokesman, 80% of Cougar football players have been vaccinated. That’s the lowest rate among the 10 Pac-12 programs that have reported those details, per a report from Jon Wilner.
Vaccinated coaches aren’t required to wear face coverings at practices. Rolovich and a handful of his assistants have been sporting masks throughout camp. On Thursday, he said “I believe they (WSU football staffers) all plan on following the mandate.”