Navy football assistant fired for refusing COVID-19 vaccination

A Navy football assistant coach has been fired after he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Offensive assistant Billy Ray Stutzmann – who was in his third year at the Academy – said he applied for a religious exemption, but the athletic department declined his request.

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Stutzmann did not say what religious restriction kept him from receiving the vaccine.

In a social media post, Stutzmann wrote: 

"The Naval Academy Athletic Association policy regarding COVID-19 requires all coaches and staff to be vaccinated against this virus. 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. 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."

Navy coach Ken Niumatalolo told the Associated Press, "He's added a lot to our program. Wish him the best of luck, he and his wife Shanelle. Wonderful young man. Got a bright, bright future in this profession."

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Stutzmann’s exit arrived amid a tumultuous weekend for the Midshipmen, who lost to Air Force 23-3 in Annapolis. The Associated Press described Navy’s performance in the game as "listless."

Following the game, longtime offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper was fired by Athletic Director Chet Gladchuk, only to restored to a new position shortly afterward.

"I don’t think Mr. Gladchuk was too happy the way things transpired. He’s the leader of our department, and he made the decision after the game that he was going to let Coach Jasper go," Niumatalolo said. "None of us were happy. A lot of emotions after the game — to lose to a rival like that, we didn’t play well on offense."

Niumatalolo, who is in his 14th season as Navy's head coach, said losing Jasper wasn't the answer.

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"Obviously, we're not playing well now on offense, but the things that he's done for this school and this program over the years has been monumental," Niumatalolo said. "He's beloved by people. He's beloved by his players. He's a great developer of quarterbacks but also of men, guys that are serving our fleet in our Navy Marine Corps."

The Associated Press contributed to this report