Navy has fired assistant coach Billy Ray Stutzmann after he failed to abide by the Naval Academy Athletic Association's policy regarding the COVID-19 vaccination. The policy requires all coaches and staff to be vaccinated against the virus. Stutzmann says he failed to receive a religious exemption that would have allowed him to stay unvaccinated.
The Pentagon announced in August that members of the United States military will be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
"Based on my religious convictions, and after much thought and prayer, I am unable to follow the requirements of the Naval Academy's COVID-19 policy, as it has changed these last few months," he wrote on his Twitter account. "After applying for a religious exemption and attempting to further negotiate alternative working arrangements, I was ultimately relieved of my duties here at Navy. I continue to stand firm in my conviction of faith, but I understand and respect that each individual and institution has a choice on how they wish to manage these issues. I wish Navy football nothing by the best in the future."
Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo has not commented on Stutzmann's decision, but now-former assistant made a point to thank his former boss.
"I am incredibly thankful to have had the opportunity to coach at the United States Naval Academy for the past two seasons under head coach Ken Niumatalolo, where I have learned from one of the best in the business. Coach Niumatalolo and his wife Barbara have made my family's time in Annapolis very special and we are forever grateful."
Stutzmann was in his third season on the Navy staff. He played wide receiver at Hawaii from 2009-13, totaling 148 catches for 1,845 yards and nine touchdowns with the Rainbow Warriors. Stutzmann previously coached at Western New Mexico College, Emory & Henry, as well as his alma mater.