Nick Rolovich’s Vaccine Refusal Creates Discord at Washington State

Schulz said the subject had come up “hundreds of times” in recent weeks in meetings with students, faculty, alumni or politicians. “It’s the No. 1 question,” he said. “It’s on everybody’s mind.”

The question now is whether Rolovich’s stance will cost him his job.

The governor’s decree requires state employees to be fully vaccinated — or receive an exemption — by Oct. 18, next Monday.

Rolovich’s is one of 437 requests for a religious exemption by university employees, 98 of which had been granted as of Friday. Rolovich said Saturday that he had not heard whether his request — which will be reviewed blindly, without his name or department — had been approved.

If the exemption is denied, he could appeal, be vaccinated or be fired.

If an exemption is granted, the employee’s supervisor must determine if the employee can still do the job effectively. For example, a university spokesman said, a graphic artist who works alone could be accommodated. Could a football coach conduct his required duties — meet with his team, run practice, host recruits, socialize with boosters and speak with reporters — without endangering others?

Making the determination would be Pat Chun, the athletic director who hired him, and who has career ambitions beyond his post in Pullman.

“I don’t think it’s a judgment call,” Chun said Friday at a homecoming pep rally, citing a process the university has laid out with guidance from the state attorney general’s office.

Rolovich, 42, is in the second year of a five-year contract that pays him $3 million per year before incentives. If he is fired without cause, the university would owe him $3.6 million after this season, under the terms of his contract — not pocket change for an athletic department that is hoping to whittle its debt to $77 million by the end of the fiscal year.

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