Rolovich sues Washington State over firing for refusing vaccine

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SPOKANE, Wash. – Former Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich has sued the university and Gov. Jay Inslee after he was fired last year for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The lawsuit, filed last week in Whitman County Superior Court, names the university, athletic director Patrick Chun and Inslee as defendants. Inslee, a Democrat, had required that state employees get vaccinated, or receive a specific exemption, to keep their jobs.

Rolovich contends Chun and other university officials were “hostile” when they denied him a religious exemption and fired him from his $3 million a year coaching job midway through the 2021 season. Rolovich was the highest-paid public employee in the state at the time and had more than three years left on his five-year contract.

Rolovich is Catholic and said in the lawsuit that he applied for a religious exemption from the vaccine requirement.

The lawsuit contends Chun interrupted that process, which led to Rolovich’s religious exemption ultimately being rejected. It also contends Chun called Rolovich a “con man” and accused him of being selfish.

Washington State officials issued a statement Monday saying the lawsuit was “wholly without merit.

“Washington State University carried out the Governor’s COVID-19 vaccination proclamation for state employees in a fair and lawful manner, including in its evaluation of employee requests for medical or religious exemptions and accommodations. For multiple reasons, Mr. Rolovich did not qualify, and the university firmly stands by that decision,” the statement said.

Rolovich appealed his firing in a letter submitted in November 2021 to Chun, but the appeal was denied. A second appeal was then sent to university President Kirk Schulz, who denied that appeal in December.

Last April, Rolovich filed a tort claim saying he intended to sue and seek $25 million in damages for wrongful termination. However, the lawsuit filed this week does not ask for a specific dollar amount in damages.

The lawsuit alleges breach of contract, discrimination and wrongful withholding of wages, as well as violations of the Civil Rights Act and the First and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

Rolovich was hired from Hawaii in 2020 after former coach Mike Leach left for Mississippi State. In parts of two seasons, Rolovich led the Cougars to a 5-6 record. After he was fired at midseason, assistant coach Jake Dickert was named interim coach and led the Cougars to a bowl game last season. Dickert was made the permanent coach after that.

Texas State hires Incarnate Word coach Kinne to lead Bobcats

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Texas State hired Incarnate Word coach G.J. Kinne on Friday to lead a Sun Belt program that has had only one winning season since moving up to the Bowl Subdivision in 2012.

The 34-year-old former Tulsa quarterback has made a fast rise in coaching since ending his professional career in 2017.

After three years as an offensive analyst at SMU, Arkansas and the Philadelphia Eagles, Kinne became offensive coordinator at Hawaii in 2020. He held the same role for UCF in 2021 before landing the head coaching job at FCS Incarnate Word this season.

Incarnate Word is 10-1 and averaging 53 points and 8.3 yards per play, both FCS highs, heading into its playoff game Saturday against Furman. Kinne will remain with Incarnate Word through their playoff run.

“It’s with great honor that I’m accepting the call to be next head football coach of the Texas State Bobcats,” Kinne said. “We are going to play fast, have relentless energy, and when the going gets tough, have the mental confidence to win tight games in the second half and represent the state of Texas. Eat ‘Em Up!”

Texas State fired Jake Spavital last week after the Bobcats won just 13 games in his four seasons.

Kinne signed a five-year contract, the school said. Terms were not immediately released.

“My goal was to hire someone with demonstrated leadership experience, success as a head coach, established relationships with Texas football coaches, and success with recruiting and developing players,” said Texas State President Kelly Damphousse. “I sought a leader with a plan to capitalize on our location in the heart of the best high school football in the country.”

Florida Atlantic hires Tom Herman as football coach

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BOCA RATON, Fla. – Former Texas and Houston head coach Tom Herman will take over at Florida Atlantic as it heads into its first season in the American Athletic Conference.

The hire comes just days after FAU fired Willie Taggart, who went 15-18 in his three seasons with the Owls. Details of the contract with Herman were not immediately available.

“We are incredibly excited to welcome Tom Herman to Paradise,” FAU Director of Athletics Brian White said Thursday. “Throughout the process and the more we talked with Coach Herman, the more it became apparent to me that he was the right person to lead our football program. Beyond his knowledge of the game, which is obvious by his success over the years, he also truly cares about the young people in his program.”

FAU’s final season in Conference USA ended with a 5-7 record and an overtime loss to Western Kentucky. The Owls will be in the American next season.

Herman returns to college football after spending the 2021 season with the Chicago Bears as an offensive analyst.

Herman was 22-4 at Houston, a mark that helped him land the head coaching job at Texas where he went 32-18 with four straight bowl trips in 2017-2020. He also was an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ 2014 national championship season, as well as stops at Iowa State, Rice and Texas State.

“All the pieces are in place at FAU for us to be successful,” Herman said. “There are already great young men on this team, great facilities, a great location, a great recruiting base and great leadership, all of which are important to building a successful program.”