PULLMAN, Wash. — Former Washington State University (WSU) head coach Nick Rolovich's legal team published an administrative appeal regarding his recent termination on Tuesday.
Rolovich claims he was wrongfully fired on Oct. 18.
Rolovich applied for a religious exemption from Governor Jay Inslee’s mandate where all state employees must get vaccinated for COVID-19. His religious exemption was denied by WSU. They said that they could not make appropriate accommodations for Rolovich if he was unvaccinated.
The appeal that was issued on Thursday is the next step in the termination process. This is his first opportunity to appeal the University's intent to terminate. He will eventually have another opportunity to appeal directly to the President who has the final say.
Meetings with Athletic Director Pat Chun
The appeal claims WSU's Athletic Director Pat Chun made several hostile statements to Rolovich for refusing to get vaccinated. There are many details outlined in this appeal, including references to a cult and Rolovich's mental health.
According to the appeal, Chun held a meeting on May 24 after he heard Rolovich's statement about not planning to get vaccinated. Chun allegedly stated he was worried about Rolovich's mental health and then accused him of having extreme views on several issues.
Rolovich responded by saying the only thing he puts above the team is his faith and his family.
Then, the appeal claims Chun held another meeting on May 27 where he told Rolovich that his beliefs were making him incapable of leading the players. In the same meeting, Chun allegedly tried to get Rolovich into counseling and offered his wife as someone the coach could talk to because she had been in a couple different religions he referred to as "cults."
In a meeting a few months later on Aug. 19, the claim says Chun held another meeting with Rolovich where he outlined four options for Rolovich. Chun said he could choose one of the following:
- Get the vaccine
- Don't get the vaccine and get fired
- Claim an exemption
- Resign right now
Rolovich said he thought the meeting was more "coercive" than prior meetings they've had.
Rolovich said in the appeal that he Chun told him Gov. Inslee issued the mandate to come after Rolovich and WSU. Rolovich interpreted that statement as Inslee "did this" to force him out with the mandate because he was angry that the highest paid and one of the highest profile state employees had asserted personal or religious objections to his vaccine mandate.
Rolovich's religious exemption
It claims Human Resources determined Rolovich was entitled to a religious exemption. HR then told Chun it was considering approving Rolovich's exemption request with proposed accommodations.
The appeal also mentions the university's review process for employee exemption requests was supposed to be blind.
But it suggests Chun did know the details of Rolovich's exemption.
But the athletic department rejected HR's proposed accommodations. It also challenged its conclusion that Rolovich met requirements for religious exemption. But it suggests it was not and Chun knew details of Rolovich's exemption.
According the appeal, Rolovich claims he didn't feel comfortable talking about his faith because it was very personal to him. He claimed that he did not know how WSU would react to his religious opposition to medical research based on "aborted fetal tissue," given that WSU professors support scientific research.
Rolovich completed his application for a religious exemption on Sept. 28.
According to the appeal, the HRS notified Chun that the university had completed its "good faith review" process and had determined that Rolovich was entitled to an exemption because of his "sincerely held religious belief."
Then, the decision went to the athletic department. The department responded to the HRS and said they had rejected the accommodations. They said "the department is not able to accommodate the request."
The appeal stated that Rolovoch had made several statements before his exemption that suggest he had other reasons for not taking the vaccine.
Justifications from the university
The athletic department had additional reasons for rejecting the claim, according to the appeal.
They said, "WSU has already lost significant donor commitments who have withdrawn or withheld donations based on the vaccination decisions of the football staff."
The memorandum continued, "Because employees are not vaccinated, attendance at conference media day was done remotely, the weekly coach's show is now done remotely and has significant decline in attendance, and many media stories concerning the football program revolve around the unvaccinated status of the head coach."
At this point in the termination process, Rolovich is on paid leave as outlined in his contract. At this time, we have found no record of a lawsuit filed against the university.