Nick Rolovich‘s refusal to receive the COVID-19 vaccine resulted in Washington State’s second coaching search in two years after three in the previous 30 years.
Rolovich applied for a religious exemption from the state of Washington to continue employment despite not receiving the vaccine. If he didn’t receive the exemption – a ruling is expected this week – he would be fired on Monday, two days after the Cougars defeated Stanford, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman reported on Saturday.
“Sources tell me that Washington State [has] worked out several contingency plans, as Rolovich is actually one of several guys on his staff who is seeking a waiver,” Feldman added. “So at midseason, you could have a big staff shakeup at Washington.”
Rolovich was indeed fired on Monday, as were several unvaccinated assistant coaches, The Oregonian’s John Canzano reported on Monday night.
With Rolovich out, whom might Washington State target as their next head coach?
It is the second head-coaching search in Pullman for both athletics director Patrick Chun and university president Kirk Schulz, who arrived in 2016 and 2018, respectively, and hired Rolovich to replace Mike Leach in January 2020. For what it’s worth, Schulz didn’t hire a coach in seven years as Kansas State president (2009-16), while Chun hired two coaches – Charlie Partridge and Lane Kiffin – in six years as FAU athletics director.
Former Cougars’ defensive coordinator (2015-17) Alex Grinch reportedly rejected an interview request two years ago. It’s unclear if Grinch covets a head-coaching job, especially while making $1.8 million in one of the premier assistant jobs in college football, but would likely be near the top of Washington State’s again.
Graham Harrell was also mentioned as a potential candidate to replace Leach. USC’s third-year offensive coordinator played under Leach at Texas Tech and worked under Leach as outside receivers coach at Washington State (2014-15). With Clay Helton out at USC, Harrell will hit the open market as a high-level coordinator or mid-level head coach.
Jeff Grimes is in his first season as Baylor offensive coordinator after leading BYU’s offense the previous three years. The 53-year-old’s résumé doesn’t have head-coaching experience but it is loaded with west-of-the-Mississippi assistant experience, including stops at Arizona State and Colorado.
Troy Taylor is an under-the-radar name to watch. One year as Eastern Washington offensive coordinator is his only notable tie to the area but the 53-year-old former Pac-12 assistant (Colorado, Cal, and Utah) has done a remarkable job in two seasons (over three years) at Sacramento State. Former EWU assistant and current Arizona State offensive coordinator Zak Hill could also be in the mix, as could fellow Pac-12 coordinators Joe Moorhead (offensive coordinator, Oregon) and Brian Lindgren (offensive coordinator, Oregon State).
Elsewhere, Troy Calhoun has been mentioned as a low-level Power Five candidate for years, Jay Hill has built a beast at Weber State, K.C. Keeler has won big at Sam Houston despite zero ties to the region, Kalen DeBoer is thriving at Fresno State, Brent Brennan is having a down year at San Jose State but proved he can win in a tough job, and Dana Dimel is winning at UTEP.
Also: Read the updated college football hot seat.