On the heels of a controversial phone call between Washington State coach Nick Rolovich and wide receiver Kassidy Woods went public, the Cougars head coach broke his silence on Monday night. An official statement released from the first-year Washington State coach offered clarification and Rolovich expressed regret regarding his words of caution to the player in aligning himself with the #WeAreUnited movement in the Pac-12.
"I spoke with Kassidy Woods in a private phone conversation last Saturday afternoon. This was before the #WeAreUnited group had released its letter of concerns," Rolovich said in the statement. "Without knowing the concerns of the group, I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition.
"I'm proud of our players and all the Pac-12 student-athletes for using their platform, especially for matters they are passionate about. WSU football student-athletes who have expressed support for the #WeAreUnited group will continue to be welcome to all team-related activities, unless they choose to opt out for health and safety reasons."
Woods recorded the call and released the transcript to the Dallas Morning News, which revealed that while Rolovich accepted the wide receiver's decision to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, he also inquired if Woods was a part of the #WeAreUnited movement. When Woods confirmed that he was, Rolovich tried to separate his health concerns -- Woods' battle with Sickle Cell makes him more susceptible to infection because of a weakened immune system -- with a decision to opt out of the season as part of the player-led call for systemic change in college sports.
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"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 in the call, according to the Dallas Morning News. "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. Um, so just think about that, if it's about getting paid and not (inaudible) about racial justice and that stuff. Then it's probably ... it's there's two sides, there's two sides here. I'm good with the Sickle Cell and the COVID, but this, this group is gonna be at a different level as far as how we're kind of going to move forward in the future."
Later in the call, Rolovich suggested that it would send "mixed messages" for Woods to be around the team and participate in other team activities if he had decided to opt out. The notion that Woods should "clean out his locker" drew significant attention as it was paired with rumors and reports that other Washington State players were receiving similar responses for their association with the #WeAreUnited movement.
In offering a statement of clarification, Rolovich may have dimmed some of the spotlight on his response to the notion of the #WeAreUnited movement. Going forward, only his actions in regard to Washington State players choosing to exert their power of expression can change the impression that response left on college football players and future recruits during a confusion 24 hours for Cougars football.