Cougs quest overshadowed by coach’s dilemma | Sports



As for the precarious and unprecedented situation involving the Washington state football coach these days, Scott Pelluer and Jim Walden agree on at least one thing.

Everybody talks about it.

As the Cougars (3-3, 2-2) prepare for a 4:30 p.m. game on Saturday at Gesa Field against Stanford, coach Nick Rolovich awaits a verdict from the school on whether he will be employed in the future . And the verdict has nothing to do with his coaching abilities.

The deadline is Monday for state employees to be fully immunized against the coronavirus or to receive an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Rolovich, 42, who refused to be vaccinated, asked the WSU for a religious exemption, and he said on Wednesday he was still awaiting a response.

Washington state players said the issue hadn’t been a big distraction, but the cooler statewide discussions this week surely focused more on Rolovich’s limbo state than on the Cougs’ chances against Stanford (3-3, 2-2).

Pelluer, a former Cougar linebacker and father of recent WSU star Peyton Pelluer, called Rolovich’s refusal to get the shot “bizarre.”

“Is this a prosecutable offense?” I have no idea, ”said Pelluer, who lives in western Washington. “But I know it’s a huge black mark on WSU, and the fans are ticked off. Everyone I talk to – all my former teammates – is like, “Are you kidding me?”

Walden, the Cougars’ head coach for nine years until 1986, said he didn’t like vaccination mandates and he praised Rolovich’s performances since taking the WSU job shortly after. time before the pandemic ends the world of sports in March 2020.

As for this season, “He beat Oregon State, he beat Cal,” Walden said in a phone interview from his booth near Coeur d’Alene for the Cougars’ last two games. “And yet anyone can talk, especially the talking heads on the west side, about the goddamn COVID – instead of watching this guy train his brain. He’s doing a hell of a job.

At WSU, requests for religious exemptions from staff are judged by a team of HR department reviewers who do not have access to applicants’ names or departments. The review team for each application must consist of at least two people.

For applicants, the first step in the process is to complete a form that includes requests such as “Briefly explain how your sincere religious belief, practice or observance conflicts with the WSU COVID vaccination requirements.”

Rolovich is of Catholic descent but has not publicly clarified the religious beliefs relating to his candidacy.

In the weeks following Gov. Jay Inslee’s release of his state vaccination mandate for education workers in August, Rolovich has repeatedly said he will comply with the edict, but he declined to say how.

That changed last Saturday when his former trainer in Hawaii, June Jones, told USA Today Sports that Rolovich was seeking a religious exemption. The WSU coach confirmed this later today.

The application process has two phases, the second less anonymous than the first. So even if Rolovich gets an exemption, he will still have to convince WSU sporting director Pat Chun and chairman Kirk Schulz that he can perform his duties without risking exposing others to the virus.

It would be a hard decision, Chun told The New York Times.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of judgment,” he said.

A week ago, WSU said it had received more than 1,250 requests for medical and religious exemptions from staff and students, and nearly 800 had been approved. But the success rate appears to be much lower for religious exemptions. The Times reported on Sunday that the school received 437 applications in this category but only granted 98.

The numbers change quickly as reviewers get closer to Monday’s deadline, according to Phil Weiler, WSU vice president of marketing and communications.

“Literally, teams are working every day, all day,” he said. “Ideally, they want to be able to do it before Monday. “

But there is no guarantee. It is not known when Rolovich submitted his application and how many applicants are in front of him. But the deadline is seen as tough and quick. He may be suspended initially pending a decision. It is also possible that his request will be denied and he will take vacation or unpaid leave, while getting the Johnson & Johnson vaccine so he can get back into the saddle in two weeks.

But it has remained so laconic throughout the process that it is largely conjecture.

Rolovich’s contract with the WSU, which provides $ 3 million per year plus incentives, runs through the 2024 season. But if he is fired for failing to fulfill a state mandate, the The school will probably consider the dismissal to be justified, which means that it would not need to continue paying it.

Pelluer agreed with Walden that Rolovich has been impressive in his role as Cougar coach so far. For him, this makes the situation even more confusing.

“It’s almost like he’s willing to throw it all away so he doesn’t have to get the shot,” Pelluer said. “Which is the weirdest thing of all.”

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