Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich was critical of the Pac-12 player unity group that has threatened a boycott amid COVID-19 concerns in a phone call with wide receiver Kassidy Woods, according to a transcript of a call Woods provided to the Dallas Morning News' Sam Blum.
Woods called Rolovich on Saturday to opt out of the season due to sickle cell trait. The head coach said deciding not to play for medical reasons was acceptable, but after Woods confirmed he also supported the unity group, Rolovich warned that aligning with them could jeopardize his future with the team.
"That's gonna be an issue if you align with them as far as future stuff," said Rolovich, "'cause the COVID stuff is one thing. But, um, joining this group ... That's obviously, you know, you get to keep your scholarship this year, but it - it's gonna be different. ... 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 is, 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. ... I'm good with the sickle cell and the COVID, and but this, this group is gonna be at a different level as far as how we're kind of going to move forward."
Woods said he wanted to keep working out with the team, but Rolovich said Woulds couldn't do so, as it could send a "mixed message."
"The less people we can have around the better chance we will have this season, I guess is what I'm saying," said Rolovich. "And if you're not gonna play, then we're gonna use the resources on the guys that are gonna play this year."
Rolovich issued a statement Monday night addressing the situation. The 41-year-old said he wasn't aware of the group's concerns during his phone conversation with Woods.
"I regret that my words cautioning Kassidy have become construed as opposition," Rolovich wrote. "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' mother, Jerline, tweeted Sunday that multiple Washington State players had been cut and told to clean out their lockers.
However, a school spokesman said Woods remains a part of the team and was never cut. No other players were cut, according to ESPN's Adam Rittenburg, who added that Washington State held a team meeting Sunday night to address the situation. Sources also told Rittenburg that players who formally opt out for health reasons can't participate in team activities.
Woods - who had six catches in 12 games in 2019 - suggested that he won't play again for the school.
"The damage is already done," Woods told the Morning News. "Shoot, that's all I've got to say about it. If they had shown me they wanted me to stay, they wouldn't have done all this. So, I'm not the problem here. I didn't create the problem. They did."
The unity group officially listed its demands, including player-approved safety standards for COVID-19 and measures to end racial injustice in college sports, in an article for The Players' Tribune on Sunday.