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Navy football fires assistant coach Billy Ray Stutzmann for not receiving COVID-19 vaccine

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Navy football coach Ken Niumatalolo said offensive assistant Billy Ray Stutzmann left the coaching staff for "personal reasons" on Monday, but in a message posted on social media, Stutzman said he was actually fired because he would not receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Stutzmann said the Naval Academy Athletics Association's vaccination policy went against his religious convictions. Team spokesman Scott Strasemeier confirmed to USA TODAY Sports that the school's athletic department instituted a vaccine mandate.

"After much thought and prayer, I am unable to follow the requirements," he wrote in a Twitter post.

The Capital Gazette reported last month the assistant, in his third season helping guide the Midshipmen's offensive line, was not around the team during training camp. Navy athletics spokesman Scott Strasemeier told the Gazette that Stutzmann was "working remotely on projects for the coaching staff."

"It's a big loss for us," Niumatalolo said, according to North Carolina public radio. "He's got a bright future in this profession."

Stutzmann applied for a religious exemption, he wrote, and that he tried to "negotiate alternative working arrangements."

"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," Stutzmann wrote. "I wish Navy Football nothing but the best in the future."

A Navy football helmet with a Semper Fi logo sits on the sideline before an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.
A Navy football helmet with a Semper Fi logo sits on the sideline before an NCAA college football game against Air Force, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

Stutzmann was a high school teammate of Marcus Mariota's at Hawaii high school powerhouse Saint Louis High School, per his Navy athletics bio. He played college football at the University of Hawaii and coached there before going to Navy.

He also coached at Division II schools Western New Mexico (2014) and Emory & Henry (2015-17).

Earlier Monday, the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets fired assistant Sylvian Lefebvre for not agreeing to take the vaccine.

Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Navy fires coach Bill Ray Stutzmann, who wouldn't get COVID-19 vaccine