Danehy: Anti-Vaxxer Nick Rolovich deserved to be canned

Bobak Ha'Eri via Wikimedia

The latest person to put on an orange robe, sit down in the middle of the street, and light himself on fire at the intersection of Selfish Street and Anti-Science Boulevard is Nick Rolovich, the former football coach at Washington State University. When it was announced a couple months ago that all Washington state employees (of which Rolovich was one of the top three highest-paid) had to be vaccinated for COVID-19, he stated flatly that he would not comply.

In the weeks that followed, he offered various (mumbled) nonsensical excuses for his inexcusable decision. As the deadline neared, he chose to play chicken with his employers, putting his seven-figure salary on the line. Maybe he thought that the state would fold, especially with his Cougars on a three-game winning streak. 

Well, they didn’t fold. They fired him and good for them. His ridiculous stance wasn’t based on science or logic or loyalty or even, as it turns out, on religion. He offered up his millions of dollars at the altar of misinformation. Then imagine that you have to go home and tell your wife that she needs to start looking for a studio apartment.

Rolovich once threw eight touchdowns in a game, knocking BYU from the ranks of the undefeated in the process. He became a coach and eventually got the Hawai’i job. By that time, the Rainbow Warriors were horrible—like 2021 Arizona Wildcat horrible.

Rolovich turned the program around in four years. His Hawai’i team is the one that set the 2019 Khalil Tate-led Arizona Wildcats on a disastrous course with a somewhat-bizarre 45-38 win to start the season in Honolulu. After later beating Oregon that year, he playfully tweeted out “Rose Bowl,” having taken down two Pac-12 teams.

He then parlayed that success into a $3 million annual salary in the Pac-12, albeit in Pullman, Washington. He was an immediate hit with the fans. Before the pandemic, he would stop in at bars and buy drinks for everybody in the place. And during the pandemic, he would buy meals for people. 

But when the state of Washington mandated vaccinations for its employees, the most recognizable face on the campus of an institution of higher learning became the Poster Child for the We Don’t Believe in Science crowd. He hemmed and hawed when asked whether he would be hurting his team by refusing to be vaccinated. He said that he hoped that they would be proud of him for taking a stand.

Yeah, they weren’t.

Less than a week after getting fired (and taking four assistant coaches whom he had apparently talked into joining him in the lemming cliff dive) with him, he announced that he would be suing the University. He claimed that he had been fired “merely for being devout in his Catholic faith.”

That sound you just heard in your head was the deliberate scratching of a record, denoting “Well, that’s just crazy!”

See, even the average non-Catholic knows that the Pope and the Church he leads are all in on vaccines. The Pope started the year with a New Year’s Day homily in which he spoke of the amazing development of the life-saving vaccines. He then instituted vaccine requirements for all Vatican employees and visitors. 

But, Il Papa was just getting started. He later put out a statement calling getting vaccinated against COVID a “moral obligation.” He later called it an “act of love.” Then, he added that vaccine resistance is “a bit strange.”  

I’m not sure how Rolovich could have missed all that, what with his being so devout and all. In fact, the more “devout” he is, the more he should have known about his church’s stance on the matter. He’s just embarrassing. It’s like someone insisting that they get Christmas Day off because they’re a Muslim.

There are other people in the sports world who have gone down that road, with wildly varying consequences. Some, like Cole Beasley, a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, have to be tested regularly and can’t participate in various team activities. Beasley recently tweet-whined “Only place I get boo’d (sic) is at our home stadium. I thought Bills fans were the best in the world. Where’d they go?”

Then there’s Kyrie Irving, the NBA All-Star (and Flat-Earther) who stands to lose millions of dollars this year. He says that he might get the shot after he’s done “some research.” He’s an All-Star Idiot.

A lot of the public debate has centered on the question of personal choice versus doing what is best for society. But in the case of Rolovich, there is actually something more important. He was responsible for the livelihood of dozens of people who worked for the football program. Those four assistant coaches whom he led off the cliff will have a hard time getting any job of substance, seeing as how they quit on their team for no good reason. But, most of all, the former head coach committed the cardinal sin of putting himself ahead of his players. You just don’t do that.

College coaches are always complaining about their players having to deal with distractions and then this guy sets himself up as Distraction No. 1. All players deserve a coach who will put the team first. With Rolovich as coach, the Cougar players didn’t have a shot.  

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