West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning was placed on administrative leave Tuesday after claims of mistreatment surfaced from a player. Defensive back Kerry Martin Jr., a sophomore from Charleston, West Virginia, posted a detailed statement on Twitter with multiple allegations against Koenning.
The allegations include offensive insults about people with intellectual disabilities after Martin made mistakes during practice, insensitive remarks about immigrants, inappropriate pressure applied to Martin after he changed his religion, and inappropriate comments directed toward recent protests that have taken place around the country.
West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons released a statement on Tuesday evening about the situation.
"I want to thank Kerry Martin for having the courage to bring his concerns to light," Lyons said. "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."
You can read Martin's full claim below:
Martin posted screenshots of the text message exchange he had with the unnamed graduate assistant during Koenning's meeting in which Koenning allegedly said, "If people did not want to be tear gassed, or push back by the police, then they shouldn't be outside protesting."
Jon Carpenter, Martin's high school coach who allegedly told Martin that Koenning has a "slave owner mentality," told WVSportsNow.com that he never used that phrase in a conversation with Martin. Carpenter did recall a conversation with Martin, one that Martin also confirmed on Twitter, that left Carpenter furious in regards to Koenning's actions.
"I told [WVU coach] Neal Brown that if I knew it was going on I'd be the first person in the car driving up there to throw rocks through windows," Carpenter said. "I'm shocked because Vic Koenning has aggravated me to death since COVID started. Five or six phone calls to make sure Kerry is fed."
Brown released a statement on Tuesday night addressing the situation.
"After speaking with Kerry, I took immediate action," he 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.
"I will refrain from further conversation or comment about these issues until the University process is complete. I ask everyone to be patient as we work through this process as quickly as possible. We will listen, learn and grow from this together, as a family, to become even more united."
Koenning released a statement Wednesday night addressing Martin's accusations.
"I never intended anything I said or did to offend or be insensitive," he wrote on Twitter. "But KJ's tweet reminded me that sometimes intent is not always clearly communicated. I've devoted the last 30 plus years of my life to serving young men through coaching. I've always tried to see things from the perspective of others. I'm not perfect – but I'm also not the person many on social media have painted me to be. I'm still learning every day and this is an opportunity for me to listen, learn and improve.
"Over the past several days, some of our players have asked me why I haven't spoken out publicly against racism and social injustice. Coach Brown and our administration addressed those important issues on behalf of our program and I fully supported their messages – then and now. At the time, I did not see the need to issue a separate statement. Again, I recognize that this only takes into account my perspective and not that of the players I am leading. Of course I stand against racism and social injustice of any kind. I hope my players know that already, but I proudly say it now. There is no place for that any time, anywhere or any place."
Koenning came with Brown to West Virginia when Brown was hired prior to the 2019 season. He was the defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Troy when Brown led the Trojans from 2015-18. Martin, a 6-foot-1, 198-pound safety, had 50 tackles and five pass breakups as a true freshman last year.