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Bison Media Blog: Former NDSU coaches on opposite sides of Washington State vaccine dispute

John Richardson let go for not following mandate; Jake Dickert named acting head coach.


FARGO — This feels like a story that is just scratching the surface. When Washington State on Monday fired head football coach Nick Rolovich for not conforming to state COVID-19 vaccine mandates, a part of North Dakota State became part of the story.

Two former Bison ended up on opposite sides of the vaccine stance.

Jake Dickert, a former Bison graduate assistant under Craig Bohl and the Cougars’ defensive coordinator, was named the acting head coach. Dickert obviously was vaccinated. Preusambly, former Bison player and assistant coach A.J. Cooper, who is still on staff as a WSU defensive line coach, was also vaccinated.

But former Bison player and assistant coach John Richardson was let go for the same reason Rolovich is no longer the head coach.

Richardson was the Washington State assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator who handled the cornerbacks.


Both Dickert and Richardson trace their coaching tree to former Bison head coach Craig Bohl, who hired both at Wyoming. Richardson worked for Bohl for six years before taking the Cougar job after the 2019 season.

He coached the Bison cornerbacks in the 2012 and 2013 national title seasons. He was a student assistant with the Bison in 2009 and 2010 and was a graduate assistant in 2011. In other words, the guy worked the trenches in finding his way up the coaching ladder.

Seems odd after going through all of that; that a vaccine mandate would end up being the force that is presumably sending him backward in the coaching profession. Richardson started two years for the Bison at cornerback in ‘07 and ‘08 after coming to NDSU from Mt. San Antonio Community College (Calif.).

Dickert worked the trenches as a Bison GA and assistant from 2008-10. From there, he went on to various defensive jobs at South Dakota, Southeast Missouri State, Augustana and Minnesota State Mankato before landing with Bohl in Wyoming in 2016.

He is now a head coach, albeit not in the long term at this point, in the Pac-12.

Cooper, meanwhile, spent six years with Bohl at Wyoming. He was one of the Bison assistants who left with Bohl after the 2013 NDSU national title. He was a standout tight end for NDSU finishing his career in 2005.

Rolovich not adhering to the state mandate is not an overnight story. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in August made it mandatory for high-ranking state employees to be vaccinated by Oct. 18. That was Monday. Rolovich was the highest paid Washington state employee making almost $3.2 million.

"I have elected not to receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private," Rolovich said in a statement before the season.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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