Monday was the deadline for Nick Rolovich to receive the first Pfizer COVID-19 shot and be on track to be fully vaccinated by Gov. Jay Inslee’s Oct. 18 deadline for public, private and charter school employees, but the Washington State football coach still isn’t elaborating on his vaccination status.
“I still plan on what I said,” he told reporters Monday during his weekly news conference via Zoom. “Following the mandate and in doing what I need to be the coach. That’s all I can really say about that.”
Rolovich, who is the highest-paid state employee in Washington at $3.2 million annually, announced in July that he had elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccination “for reasons which will remain private.”
He was pressed Monday by reporters and continued to stay mum.
When asked if he would seek a religious or medical exemption, he said, “I’m not gonna talk about that.”
Rules Inslee announced on Aug. 18 stated that all faculty, staff and contractors in higher education must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18. The deadline to receive the first Moderna dose passed last week. The final day to receive the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be Oct. 4.
Rolovich missed Pac-12 football media day in July, the only coach who didn’t attend.
Exemptions have been limited to medical and religious reasons, with personal reasons thrown out as an exemption in Washington. On Monday, Rolovich continued to evade questioning on his hesitation or elaborate on his status.
The WSU athletic department did not immediately respond Monday to a request for comment from Athletic Director Pat Chun.
Rolovich was pressed by KING 5’s Chris Daniels on the Zoom call:
Q: Have you received your shot or have you scheduled your shot?
A: Yeah I’m not going to talk about that, Chris. I understand what you guys are trying to get to, but …
Q: Are you seeking a religious or medical exemption?
A: I’m not going to talk about that, either, Chris.
Q: What’s been your hesitation with talking about it or [being] more forthcoming?
A: I don’t know that it’s … all that positive to get deep into it with the media, the way it’s going, so I’m just going to try to keep that to myself and concentrate on being the coach here.
Q: But I think you can understand that you’re the highest-paid state employee, and there are fans, teachers and students that are upset about your stance on this, and your lack of insight about why you haven’t said that you’ve received the shot or not. How do you answer those people that are upset about your stance on this?
A: Uh … I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say here.
Q: Well, there are people who have said you that should be suspended or terminated by Washington State University over your lack of, your lack of a statement on this, on whether you’re going to get a shot or not.
Q: I mean there are people that are upset and would like some clarity from the highest-paid employee in the state about whether they’re going to get the shot or not.
A: OK, I understand that.
Q: So again I’ll … will you get your shot or have you scheduled your shot?
A: I’m not going to answer that, Chris, and we’re going to move forward with USC at this point.
WSU, along with other pro and Division I college teams in Washington, announced a vaccine mandate for fans, or a negative test within 72 hours, to attend football games. That mandate for Cougars spectators goes into effect Oct. 9.
That hasn’t inspired Rolovich to be any more forthcoming.
Also on Monday, Billy Ray Stutzmann, the brother of Washington State co-offensive coordinator Craig Stutzmann, was fired from his role as an assistant coach at the Naval Academy for failure to be vaccinated or receive an exemption.
In August, the Pentagon announced that members of the United States military will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Based on my religious convictions, and after much thought and prayer, I am unable to follow the requirements of the Naval Academy’s COVID-19 policy, as it has changed these last few months,” Billy Ray Stutzmann wrote on Twitter. “After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy. I continue to stand firm in my conviction of faith, but I understand and respect that each individual and institution has a choice on how they wish to manage these issues. I wish Navy football nothing but the best in the future.”
When asked Monday how that could affect Craig Stutzmann, Rolovich didn’t have an answer. It is unclear if Stutzmann is vaccinated but he has worn a mask on the Cougars sideline. Coaches who are fully vaccinated are not required to wear a mask on the sideline.
“That’s Craig’s business,” he said. “That’s up to Craig.”
Washington State faces USC this week and has four more games before the mandate kicks in for educators to be vaccinated.