Former Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich has filed a lawsuit against the university, its athletic director, Pat Chun, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee seeking damages following his dismissal for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID last year.
Rolovich had previously filed a claim against the university in April, a prerequisite for suing a state agency. A person must wait 60 days to sue after a tort claim is filed.
The most recent suit, filed Friday, did not specify an amount of damages that the former head coach would be seeking — unlike the previous claim which sought $25million — per ESPN.
Rolovich was fired in October 2021 after he had coached just 11 games with the Cougars over two seasons, going 5-6.
The devout Catholic was denied a religious exemption from Governor Jay Inslee’s mandate requiring state employees to get the vaccine.
Former Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich (center) has filed a lawsuit against the university, its athletic director, Pat Chun, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
The suit contained eight counts; including the wrongful withholding of wages, discrimination against religion, breach of contract, violation of the First and 14th Amendments, as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, according to ESPN.
Rolovich is seeking compensation pertaining to punitive damages, loss of previous and future income and liquidated damages.
A 2021 ESPN report said the school attempted to assuage Rolovich’s vaccine fears by putting him in touch with Dr. Guy Palmer, a WSU regents professor of pathology and infectious diseases.
Palmer told ESPN that Rolovich’s questions seemed like they were coming from the ‘anti-vax crowd on social media.’
Then-Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich, center, stands with his players before their NCAA college football game against Stanford on Saturday in Pullman, Washington
Rolovich, who is Catholic, was denied a religious exemption from Governor Jay Inslee’s mandate requiring state employees to get the vaccine
‘Kind of typical ones: Is Bill Gates involved with the vaccines? Does [Gates] hold a patent on the vaccines?’ Palmer told ESPN. ‘He asked whether SV40 is in the vaccines and whether that could be a dangerous thing. And the answer to that is ”no.”’
Fahling filed a 34-page letter with the university appealing Rolovich’s firing in November 2021. That appeal was denied.
At the time of his firing, Rolovich was working under a five-year contract, on which three seasons remained. He was paid $3.2 million per year, the highest public salary in the state.
WSU judged exemption requests with a two-person panel using a blind evaluation process that omitted applicants’ names and job titles, according to the school.
Rolovich was not given a chance to address his team before his firing, and was quickly escorted off the premises by police, according to Fahling.
WSU president Kirk Schulz said in his statement in October 2021 that less than 50 of 10,000 school employees were fired for refusing to get vaccinated, including Rolovich and assistants Craig Stutzmann (co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Mark Weber (offensive line), Ricky Logo (defensive tackles) and John Richardson (cornerbacks).
Crowd Management Staff security employees Myrladis Lopez, front right, and Jacqueline Barajas, top right, check for proof of COVID-19 vaccination of Vince Johnson, left, and his wife Marci Johnson before they were allowed to enter Martin Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Washington State and Oregon State on October 9, 2021
‘This is a disheartening day for our football program,’ Chun said in his statement at the time of Rolovich’s firing. ‘Our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well-being of the young men on our team.
‘The leadership on our football team is filled with young men of character, selflessness and resiliency and we are confident these same attributes will help guide this program as we move forward.’
A former quarterback who played in the World Football League and the Arena Football League, Rolovich had a three-year stint as Hawaii’s head coach before signing with WSU in 2020.
His total record with the Cougars was 5-6.