Why Aren’t We Questioning the Mental Health of Nick Rolovich? 

We spend days and days scrutinizing a black woman who made the right decision but barely gloss over a white man causing permanent damage

Welcome to Mental Health in Sports Appreciation Week. 

On one side, we have Simone Biles—who, after the postponed/isolation/cardboard bed/pandemic Olympic prelims where she could sense her mentals were off and didn’t want to perform literal death-defying feats that only she can in front of 2 billion people, deciding instead to mitigate the risk and put her teammates’ needs above her own—is questioned by every white bro outrage/clickbait commentator who irl hasn’t been able to lace up his sneaks without making grandpa noises in a decade.

On the other side, we have Washington State football head coach Nick Rolovich, the highest-paid individual in the entire school ($3 million per season), who revealed late last week that he has chosen not to get vaccinated. 

He doubled down Tuesday at the Pac-12’s media day as the lone head coach not in attendance. 

Instead, Rolovich’s face was broadcast on a Costco flat screen hanging ominously over his empty seat at a table in a conference room in the W in Hollywood. A pair of his players, running back Max Borghi, and linebacker Jahad Woods (both vaccinated and accounted for), looked on.

During a ten-minute screed which was filled with fragments and half-finished thoughts turning Biles-esque cartwheels over and over the actual question as to why he won’t get a shot that would help to end this public health nightmare and stop the mutation of a virus that has designs on becoming a permanent part of whatever’s left of this society, Rolovich refused to justify why he’s making this all about him, and his rights, and not about his players, their safety, and his programs’ success.

No journalist in attendance asked about the state of his mental well-being, though they should have. No journalist in attendance asked if he was a baby boy who was afraid of needles, though they should have. 

Instead, Rolovich got off easy with the prefab statement that he wants to: “[adhere] to all policies that are implemented for the unvaccinated at the state, local, campus, and conference level.”

Like, what?

“I don’t believe in paying for food so I’m only going to dine and dash from now on” is not an answer. Because no matter what, someone down the line is going to have to settle up.

I scanned the same freedom-loving death cult outrage sites and the same dumb sportsblab podcasts and broadcasts and blogs, and not ONE asked whether Rolovich was mentally okay. Not one positioned this as Rolovich betraying his program or the athletes in it. Not ONE THOUGHT ROLOVICH SHOULD SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP or called him out for this odd-ball and destructive decision. 

Not one. 

Which, like, great—so if white guy blabber boxes aren’t going to hold him accountable, I guess it’s up to his employers to make it policy that all unvaccinated coaches and staff will be subject to counseling and then terminated if they cannot get their heads around quickly enough to make the right decision and re-join the rest of us here on plague-inflicted Earth. 

Next to Rolovich’s empty chair, in-state rival University of Washington's athletic director Jen Cohen reported 100% of football staff, 91% of football players, and 90% of all student-athletes are vaccinated.

New Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff also chimed in, noting that eight of the conference’s 12 teams are at least 80% vaccinated, and six have reached 90%. 

These are, to date, the highest totals for a conference in the country. 

“We still have a sour taste in our mouth from our season getting derailed last year, and nobody wants that to happen again,” U-Dub head coach Jimmy Lake said, recalling the nightmare of last season. “I am very happy to say that, with our whole building, for the most part, I believe the coronavirus will not have an effect on our team, for sure.”

What a contrast. Like Lake’s brain actually absorbs trauma like a memory foam mattress. He has held on to the disaster ripples from this fucking thing and is doing everything in his power to see that it never happens again—not for himself, not for his staff, and especially not for his players. 

Rolovich, on the other hand, has very explicitly and purposefully become a poster boy for Part of the Problem and, at the very least, a health risk—not to mention a nuisance/distraction to his players, his program, and his conference. (I’d say he’s causing harm to everyone around him, but when last checked, he’s currently alone in a room.) 

And for what? For fucking what? 

For full disclosure, I grew up a couple of blocks away from Nick. We’re not friends, but I’ve sat and had beers next to him on several of those Thin Lizzy/Meeting up a Dino’s pre-Thanksgiving Wednesday nights.

Like the rest of the terrestrial high school football gods who made it to the next level from my town, he was a good kid, athletic and bright, and with a fun sense of humor. Everyone liked Nick. Nick liked everyone. He had an incredible work ethic and even better footwork. What’s not to be proud of? 

So what went wrong?

I’m not ready to say Nick’s a bad person or has mutated into something awful. But clearly, his head’s not in the right place. This is not normal behavior. It’s not good behavior. 

And he needs to do something about it, if for nothing else—than to rescue his own credibility.

See, it’s not like Nick is a Subway franchise owner in fucking Pahrump who spends all his days in the back office eating Spicy Italians and nodding along to Joe Rogan.

He’s taking millions of dollars a year from a public institution (one by the way that’s all-in on the sciences and has recently spun up its own med school.) And in exchange for punching that winning lottery ticket every month, he’s charged with molding young men into the minds and leaders of tomorrow. 

I don’t know what goes on behind closed doors; I don’t know his reasoning—he hasn’t said anything—so we’re meant only to guess. Is he racist? Anti-Semitic? Anti-science? Ill-informed? A sociopath? Already angling for a buy out? Is he balls-deep into being a functioning society-killing vector? 

Or has he simply lost his shit?

We don’t know. He won’t tell us. 

Rolovich is free not to get vaccinated. He’s free to wear clown makeup and swallow swords. He’s free to go to Burning Ban in a tutu and fairy wings and nothing else crushing Molly and free pancakes and bottles of Kirkland water for a week straight later this month. Whatever.

What he shouldn’t be free to do is be a public health concern and a safety risk, not to himself—and not to the young men he’s in charge of leading. 

Rolovich needs to get help. And if he can’t come around to the notion that he’s doing harm, he needs to be fired. Maybe that’ll give him the time to figure out how to admit, like Simone Biles did this week, that he’s only human.