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Nick Rolovich, Washington State sued by former player

In 20 months on the job, the Washington State head coach's off-field controversies have outnumbers his on-field victories.

Former Washington State player Kassidy Woods is suing Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich and WSU itself, accusing the school and its coach breach of contract, violating his civil rights and covering up COVID-19 cases in the athletics department.

Woods was the player who last season recorded a phone conversation with Rolovich in which the coach implied the player would not be welcome on the team if he supported the #WeAreUnited movement, which sprung up before the 2020 season hoping to force standardized health and safety protocols across major college football. The group also supported social justice and race issues in the wake of the George Floyd protests that summer.

“OK so that’s going to be, that’s gonna be an issue if you align with them as far as future stuff, cause the COVID stuff is one thing,” Rolovich said on the call, according the lawsuit’s transcript. “But, um, joining this group is gonna put you on a, on a — that’s obviously, you know, you get to keep your scholarship this year, but it — it’s gonna be different. You know, if you, if you say, ‘I’m opting out ‘cause of COVID and health and safety,’ I’m good. But this group is gonna change, uh, I guess, how things go in the future for everybody, at least at our school.”

“Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition," Rolovich later said in a statement. "I’m proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about.”

Woods's lawsuit, filed in his hometown of Dallas, said he was effectively kicked off team for opting out of last season, removing him from all team digital communications, and also that the athletics department actively hid COVID-19 cases from players on the team. The suit also says Washington State informed Woods his scholarship would not be renewed after the fall semester. He has since transferred to Northern Colorado. 

“Woods’ roommate indicated to Woods that roughly 10 football players had tested positive at that time," the lawsuit says. "His roommate felt that Woods should know about the positive cases even though Defendants strictly ordered the players to keep silent to the media and others — including players who had not yet reported back to Pullman — regarding positive COVID-19 cases that were occurring within the program.”

Washington State told USA Today it is aware of the complaint but will not comment on an ongoing legal matter.

Meanwhile, Washington State is set to open the second season of the Rolovich era on Saturday night. Rolovich made headlines late this summer by announcing he would not attend Pac-12 media days because he had not and would not be vaccinated. When Washington governor Jay Inslee placed a vaccine mandate on all state employees, Rolovich said he planned to "follow the mandate" without saying directly whether he'd be vaccinated or seek a medical or religious exemption.