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WSU coach Nick Rolovich won't attend Pac-12 event after choosing not to get COVID-19 vaccine

Head Football Coach Nick Rolovich tweeted Wednesday saying he has "elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine." He will attend the Pac-12 event remotely.

PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University (WSU) Head Football Coach Nick Rolovich says he will not participate on site at next week’s Pac-12 football media day in Los Angeles after choosing not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The conference is requiring all in-person participants to be fully vaccinated. 

Rolovich tweeted the following statement about his decision:

“As the Pac-12 conference has required that all in-person participants at next week’s Pac-12 Football Media Day be fully vaccinated, I will participate remotely and look forward to talking about our football team and the incredible young men in our program. I have elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private. While I have made my own decision, I respect that every individual-including our coaches, staff and student-athletes-can make his or her own decision regarding the COVID-19 vaccine. I will not comment further on my decision.”

In a statement, WSU Director of Athletics Pat Chun said he and Rolovich have had "multiple conversations" regarding his decision to not receive a COVID-19 vaccine. WSU does have a vaccination requirement, but there are policies and procedures for employees who are not vaccinated to follow.

"As a department, we will continue to educate our student-athletes, staff and coaches on the benefits of vaccinations and do all that we can to protect the health and safety of those in our charge," Chun wrote in the statement. 

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The Pac-12 has so far declined to comment on Rolovich's announcement. 

Gov. Jay Inslee, at an event in Nespelum Wednesday, responded to Rolovich's tweet when asked about it.

"Anybody in a leadership position in the state of Washington, I believe, has an obligation to lead and use their leadership position to save lives. Governors, senators, football coaches. Help lead. Lead the effort to defeat COVID," Inslee said.

WSU announced in April that it will require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff engaging activities on campus. Exemptions are allowed for medical, religious and personal reasons, according to the website. Students whose programs are fully online and/or for which an on‑campus/location presence does not occur are automatically exempted from this requirement, according to the guidelines.

In a statement Wednesday evening, WSU President Kirk Schulz reiterated the university's COVID-19 vaccine policy, saying in part, "As the state’s land-grant research university, WSU has an obligation to serve the public good and promote the health and safety of its communities. The science clearly shows that the COVID-19 vaccine nearly eliminates the chances of death or serious illness related to a COVID-19 infection and is a critical element in protecting public health locally and worldwide."

Students and staff who do request an exemption from the vaccine will be required to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing when classes resume this fall, according to the statement. 

Rolovich was hired by WSU in January 2020 after spending the previous four seasons at Hawaii. The Cougars played just four games last season. Two other games were canceled due to COVID-19 issues, including the Apple Cup with rival Washington.

Rolovich is the Cougars 33rd head football coach, according to the university.