Ex-Football Coach Plans to Sue Washington State University Over Firing Due to Refusing COVID Vaccine

Nick Rolovich's request for a religious exemption from the COVID vaccine was denied by the university

Nick Rolovich
Photo: Rick Bowmer/AP/Shutterstock

Coach Nick Rolovich, who was recently fired for refusing to comply with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate required for all state employees, plans to sue his former employer, Washington State University, for what he claims was an "illegal termination."

On Wednesday, two days after Rolovich, 42, was ousted, his attorney Brian Fahling released a statement about the "unjust and unlawful" firing.

"It came after Coach Rolovich's request for a religious exemption from the vaccine was denied by the University. The institution also indicated that even if the exemption had been granted, no accommodation would have been made," read the statement, obtained by PEOPLE.

Rolovich, who is Catholic, first disclosed his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine in July, tweeting that he would not be attending a Pac-12 media day due to his decision. Gov. Jay Inslee's mandate required all state employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or obtain an exemption by Monday.

Rolovich, formerly at the University of Hawaii, was the only unvaccinated head coach in the Pac-12 conference and was previously seen wearing masks during his second season as head coach of the Cougars. Along with Rolovich, four other assistant coaches — Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann and Mark Weber — were found "not in compliance" with the mandate, and the school "initiated the separation process based on the terms of their respective contracts, effective immediately," a WSU press release, previously provided to PEOPLE, stated.

Fahling's statement also accused the university's athletic director Pat Chun of directing "campus police to escort [Rolovich] to his car" without going to his office or speaking with the football team. In Rolovich's view, "since at least early April, it became clear that Chun had already determined that Coach Rolovich would be fired," the statement said.

"Chun's animus towards Coach Rolovich's sincerely held religious beliefs, and Chun's dishonesty at the expense of Coach Rolovich during the past year, is damning and will be thoroughly detailed in litigation," the attorney's statement alleged. He said the lawsuit will assert that, "Chun's discriminatory and vindictive behavior has caused immeasurable harm to Coach Rolovich and his family."

The attorney also made allegations in the statement about what he claimed was a "secret donor trip" Chun had Rolovich attend last summer.

"It is a tragic and damning commentary on our culture, and more specifically, on Chun, that Coach Rolovich has been derided, demonized and ultimately fired from his job, merely for being devout in his Catholic faith," Fahling's statement concluded.

Chun did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's requests for comment. A spokesperson for Washington State University told PEOPLE the school had no further comment and referred to a previous statement issued Monday.

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Nick Rolovich
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Chun previously called Rolovich's removal "a disheartening day for our football program" in the Monday statement. "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," he said.

WSU President Kirk Schulz also said, "While much has been made of the relatively small number of university employees who are not complying with the Governor's mandate, we are immensely gratified that nearly 90 percent of WSU employees and 97 percent of our students are now vaccinated."

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