West Virginia has placed defensive coordinator Vic Koenning on administrative leave while it launches an investigation into allegations of mistreatment made by safety Kerry Martin Jr. on Tuesday.
“I want to thank Kerry Martin for having the courage to bring his concerns to light. We will not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination or bias on our campus, including our athletic programs,” West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said in a statement. “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 posted the allegations on Twitter, writing, “We need a change in our program.” The sophomore alleges that Koenning, who also coaches WVU’s safeties, called him “retarded” during a team workout earlier this month and has made inappropriate comments about religion, politics and the recent protests of racism and police brutality.
Martin said he met with WVU head coach Neal Brown about Koenning’s behavior.
“Coach Vic is not a bad person and he does mean well in many [different] aspects but his heinous actions toward us over rules the good things he has done and many of us are uncomfortable being around him,” Martin wrote on Twitter. “I didn’t want to bring negativity to the program but with everything going on, for him to still act this way and feel okay with saying what he said is not okay. Enough is enough.”
Martin alleges that last season, Koenning spoke in a position meeting “about President Trump and how he should ‘build the wall and keep Hispanics out of the country,’ and there’s a Hispanic in the meeting.” Martin also referred to a meeting Koenning had with his high school coach, Jon Carpenter, and Martin said Carpenter in a later conversation described Koenning as having a “‘Slave Master’ mentality.”
Carpenter denied making that claim on Tuesday, telling “This Week in WV Sports,” “100 percent no. I never told him that.” Carpenter added that he is “heartbroken Kerry could feel that way.” Martin responded to Carpenter’s claim on Twitter, calling it “100% not true.”
West Virginia safety Kerry Martin Jr., left, played in all 12 games for the Mountaineers as a freshman last season. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Martin also referred Tuesday to a virtual meeting in which Koenning allegedly said of the recent demonstrations, “If people did not want to get tear gassed, or push back by the police then they shouldn’t be outside protesting.” Martin said he tried to address Koenning’s comments in the meeting, but a graduate assistant stepped in and directed the conversation back to football. Koenning asked Martin to remain on the call afterward and “wanted to apologize and give clarity on what he said.”
Brown, in a letter posted later Tuesday, said he learned of Martin’s concerns on Twitter.
“After speaking with Kerry, I took immediate action,” the Mountaineers’ head coach said. “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.”
Brown also asked for patience from the Mountaineers community “as we work through this process as quickly as possible.”
Koenning, 60, joined West Virginia’s staff in 2019 after working in the same role under Brown at Troy from 2015 to 2018. Koenning spent three seasons as Wyoming’s head coach and led Illinois in an interim head-coaching role in 2011.
Martin appeared in all 12 games for WVU as a freshman in 2019, starting four contests and recording 50 tackles and five pass breakups.
In his tweet, Martin posted a text message exchange from Monday’s meeting with the unnamed graduate assistant, who acknowledged that Koenning struggles to convey his message in an appropriate way.
“He’s an older man who grew up in a different time, he’s never gonna see it the way you and I or others do,” the graduate assistant wrote to Martin. “He is always going to defend his point of view.”
Martin alleged that Koenning “antagonized” former WVU defensive back Derrek Pitts for his religious beliefs and had multiple meetings with Martin after Martin decided to change his religion.
“He has also [given] me a book about how to find Christ and has even read me scriptures out of his FCA bible,” Martin wrote.