“I’d call it a dramatic irony,” Woods said in a phone interview on Friday. “Every person’s decision should be respected, but he didn’t respect my decision. The rule for me was if you opt out, you’re not going to be part of the team. Now he wants to opt out of the vaccine. Does he want to be part of the team?”
Among the pandemic’s most enduring legacies is as a tool of division — be it through shutdowns, masks, vaccines or mandates. The line of demarcation between personal freedom and the public good leaves as little room for common ground as a razor’s edge.
And so, after Rolovich acknowledged in a video news conference on Saturday afternoon that it had been “an incredible stress” over the last few months, it was perhaps not surprising that at least one of the Cougars — 83 percent of whom had been vaccinated as of Sept. 10 — portrayed the situation in us-versus-them terms.
“The guys covering us, they’re trying to dig a hole on our Cougar football team,” quarterback Jayden de Laura said. “I thought you guys were supposed to be supporting us, and you guys are over here trying to take out our head guy.”
He added: “There’s probably friction outside of our team. We don’t pay attention to that kind of stuff. That’s you guys. That’s your guys’ perspective. You guys ain’t coming in early in the morning to come to practice and sacrifice with us.”
Before the game, de Laura interrupted his warm-up to pay a quick visit to Jack Thompson, nicknamed the Throwin’ Samoan, who is revered as the first in the program’s long line of standout quarterbacks. A few minutes earlier, Thompson, in a lettermen’s jacket, had embraced Rolovich and wished him good luck.
But even Thompson has struggled to make sense of the situation.
“I’m conflicted,” he said. “Nick is a friend and a damn good coach. And I’ve given him my counsel. But I love my school, and no one person is bigger than the school.
“I’m just praying for the right thing to happen,” he continued, aware that like everyone else — except perhaps Rolovich — he has no idea how this will turn out.