SHOWS + PODCASTS

Religious exemption or not, Washington State coach loses job

Oct 19, 2021, 5:32 PM | Updated: Aug 2, 2022, 12:38 pm
football coach...
Washington State coach Nick Rolovich walks on the field after the team's NCAA college football game against Stanford, Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Pullman, Wash. Washington State won 34-31. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
(AP Photo/Young Kwak)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s be cougars vs. cougars on Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Wash. But the Washington State cats just lost their head football coach. Claiming a religious exemption did not protect his job, says a Utah defense attorney.

Coach’s Rolovich’s backstory

Second-year coach Nick Rolovich, 42, was terminated Monday for refusing to abide by the state vaccine mandate signed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. The mandate required all state employees — including those at its public universities — to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Oregonian’s John Canzano reported that Rolovich had been terminated with cause. That means Washington State University doesn’t owe a buyout fee for the decision. 

Related: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints won’t provide vaccine exemptions

Washington State defensive coordinator Jake Dickert will serve as acting head coach, according to reporting from Sean Walker at KSL.com. He was the highest-paid state employee at about $3 million a year in a contract that runs through 2025.

And he is also the only unvaccinated coach in the Pac-12.

Rolovich revealed in July that he would not get vaccinated. He couldn’t attend Pac-12 media day in person because of it, according to ESPN.

Rolovich had applied for a religious exemption from the vaccine mandate, according to USA TODAY. His application was denied.

Hold onto your beliefs while looking for a new job

Utah defense attorney Greg Skordas joined KSL NewsRadio’s Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to discuss religious exemptions and state mandates.

Debbie said if she walked away from a five-year, $3-million-a-year contract, her family would never speak to her again.

Related: Senator Lee working on exemptions to Biden vaccine mandate

“They’d be dragging me, kicking and screaming, to the vaccine clinic down the street,” she said.

“But I think there’s a chance your family will respect you for it because you’re standing up for what you believe in,” Dave said.

“I love your optimism,” she said. 

Debbie asked if Skordas would ever turn down $15 million for your beliefs.

“No one’s ever gonna offer me $15 million for anything,” he said. 

Then he added that a person can be appreciated for standing alongside their religious convictions. But he said the state’s position is that, yes, someone can hold onto their religious convictions all day long. But they may not be able to work their job anymore.

“That’s sort of where the law lands. That’s where we end up here when we’re talking about these vaccine mandates and a condition of continued employment,” Skordas said.

Can you be fired for holding onto a religious conviction?

“Aren’t you protected if you hold a religious conviction? You can’t be fired for that religious conviction,” Dave said.

An employee cannot be terminated for his or her religious convictions. But Skordas said that to safeguard the student-athletes and staff, it is not unreasonable for the employer — in this case the state of Washington — to require all who work in close proximity with others to be vaccinated against a deadly virus. Skordas said that if an employee disagrees, they are free to find work elsewhere.

Related: Constitutional scholars, Utah lawmakers push back on vaccine mandate

“That’s where the rubber hits the road,” Skordas said.

If you are a student-athlete whose religious conviction forbids participating in public athletic activities on Sundays, and you are hoping to play for a team that plays on Sundays, you probably won’t be a good fit for that team, Skordas said.

“But go live your religion, and go be proud of that,” Skordas said.

 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard on weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Today’s Top Stories

Shows + Podcasts

Utah State University researchers measure the temperature at minus 10 degrees in the Logan Canyon M...
Mark Jones

Monday morning’s cold temperatures nearly set new records

Cold temperatures Monday morning in northern Utah nearly set new records.
1 day ago
education legislation...
Mark Jones

One Utah lawmaker wants to ban cellphones in classrooms

One Utah lawmaker wants to ban cellphones in Utah classrooms.
1 day ago
It's so cold today (Jan. 30) that plumbers are expecting calls anytime from customers needing servi...
Curt Gresseth

When it’s this cold, keep your pipes from freezing. Here’s how.

It's so cold outside today that a plumber has joined the show to share tips on keeping your pipes inside and outside your home from freezing.
1 day ago
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, talks about SB117, which he is sponsoring, during a Senate Judicia...
Devin Oldroyd

Two Republicans voted against bill banning transgender-related surgery, here’s why

The Utah Senate has approved a bill banning transgender-related surgery and puberty blockers for minors. A total of two Republicans voted against it.
4 days ago
Rabbi Avremi Zippel talks to the crowd during halftime of a Jazz-Portland Trail Blazers game at Viv...
Mark Jones

International Holocaust Remembrance Day: Area rabbi shares his thoughts

Rabbi Avremi Zippel joined Inside Sources Friday to discuss International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
4 days ago
A House panel is endorsing a new Utah law, H.B. 102, which extends resident college tuition rates t...
Devin Oldroyd

New Utah law could extend in-state tuition to refugees & asylum seekers

A House panel is endorsing a new Utah law, H.B. 102, which extends resident college tuition rates to refugees and political asylum seekers.
4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Banner with Cervical Cancer Awareness Realistic Ribbon...
Intermountain Health

Five Common Causes of Cervical Cancer – and What You Can Do to Lower Your Risk

January is National Cervical Cancer Awareness month and cancer experts at Intermountain Health are working to educate women about cervical cancer, the tests that can warn women about potential cancer, and the importance of vaccination.
Kid holding a cisco fish at winterfest...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Get Ready for Fun at the 2023 Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

The Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is an annual weekend event jam-packed full of fun activities the whole family can enjoy. This year the event will be held from January 27-29 at the Utah Bear Lake State Park Marina and Sunrise Resort and Event Center in Garden City, Utah. 
happy friends with sparklers at christmas dinner...
Macey's

15 Easy Christmas Dinner Ideas

We’ve scoured the web for you and narrowed down a few of our favorite Christmas dinner ideas to make your planning easy. Choose from the dishes we’ve highlighted to plan your meal or start brainstorming your own meal plan a couple of weeks before to make sure you have time to shop and prepare.
Spicy Homemade Loaded Taters Tots...
Macey's

5 Game Day Snacks for the Whole Family (with recipes!)

Try these game day snacks to make watching football at home with your family feel like a special occasion. 
Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...
Sorenson

The Best Tools for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Workplace Success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...
Macey's

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
Religious exemption or not, Washington State coach loses job