West Virginia University defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has been placed on administrative leave after safety Kerry Martin Jr. alleged Koenning mistreated players, made insensitive comments and caused players to transfer away from Morgantown.
“I want to thank Kerry Martin for having the courage to bring his concerns to light,” West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons wrote in a statement Tuesday. “We will not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination or bias on our campus, including our athletic programs. Coach Vic Koenning has been placed on administrative leave effective immediately, and the department will work with the appropriate parties to conduct a thorough investigation into these allegations. This is serious, and we will act appropriately and in the best interests of our student-athletes.”
Martin, a sophomore, posted his allegations to Twitter on Tuesday, saying he wasn’t sure about posting but the West Virginia football program needs to change. Koenning was hired as West Virginia’s defensive coordinator in January 2019, having spent the previous four years as Troy’s defensive coordinator and safeties coach.
“I myself have dealt with mistreatment and racism growing up in West Virginia, but I never would’ve thought I would deal with it while at a school I’m supposed to be able to call home with my own position coach, Vic Koenning,” Martin wrote, noting he had talked to head coach Neal Brown about his concerns regarding Koenning. “Three weeks after we reported back to campus for summer workouts, I had my first incident with him after a mistake I made on the field that he called me retarded for doing the wrong technique. I have family members that are actually mentally ill and for him to say that hurt me because it was an action we could fix.”
Martin said the most recent incident occurred during Monday’s position meeting.
“Coach Vic tells us about the conversation he and with his son about the rioting and protesting and his exact words were, ‘if people did not want to get tear gassed, or push[ed] back by the police then they shouldn’t be outside protesting,’ “ Martin wrote. “I then spoke up instantly and asked what he meant by that and he couldn’t give a straight answer. Our Graduate Assistant Coach then steps in and says, ‘guys [we] are not doing this right now we need to get back to football’ to defuse the situation from escalating.
“After the initial position meeting was over Coach Vic then tells me to stay on the call and wanted to apologize and give clarity on what he said. No, coach Vic is not a bad person and he does mean well in many didn’t aspects but his heinous actions towards us overrules the good things he has done and many of us are uncomfortable with being around him.
“With everything going on and for him to still act this way and feel okay with saying what he said is not okay. Enough is enough.”
Martin also detailed how Koenning antagonized safety Derrek Pitts, who eventually transferred to Marshall, for his religious beliefs. Martin alleged that during a position meeting in which a Hispanic was present, Koenning said Donald Trump should “build the wall and keep Hispanics out the country.”
Brown released a statement Tuesday, starting with “Mountaineer Family, I come to you tonight sick about today’s events” and saying that he waited to speak publicly because he wanted to talk to everyone involved.
“After speaking with Kerry, I took immediate action,” Brown wrote. “Along with Shane and his team, we launched an independent investigation. I spoke with all parties involved, the defense as a unit and the team as a whole. I again emphasized to our team that our program culture will be one of acceptance, respect, tolerance, and positive relationships. I stressed to our team and staff that we will be open and transparent throughout the University process.”