West Virginia has placed defensive coordinator Vic Koenning on administrative leave after a player alleged in a social media post that the assistant coach made a series of insensitive remarks, including against Hispanics.
West Virginia athletics director Shane Lyons announced the move Tuesday after safety Kerry Martin posted the allegations on his Twitter account about Koenning.
“I want to thank Kerry Martin for having the courage to bring his concerns to light,” Lyons said in a statement. “We will not tolerate any form of racism, discrimination or bias on our campus, including our athletic programs.”
Lyons said the athletics 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, said in a lead-in to his post that “I’ve been contemplating about posting but we need a change in our program.”
Koenning, who was brought to West Virginia from Troy when coach Neal Brown was hired last year, couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Koenning played for Kansas State from 1979 to 1982, earning his degree from the university in 1983. During his playing career in Manhattan, he was a three-year starter and team captain. He also received the Paul Coffman Award, given to the Wildcat who displays the most outstanding leadership.
Koenning went on to play four seasons at the professional level, two in the NFL (1983 with the Denver Broncos and 1986 with the Green Bay Packers) and two in the USFL (1984-85 with the Oklahoma Outlaws).
He then went into coaching, starting as a graduate assistant at Memphis and remaining a GA for the next four years before becoming the school’s defensive backs coach in 1991. He spent the next six seasons in that role before Wyoming hired him as its new defensive coordinator in 1997. After three years in that position, Wyoming promoted him to head coach. Koenning struggled immensely, going 5-29 before the school fired him following the 2002 season.
He had stops at Troy (defensive coordinator in 2003-04) and Clemson (defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2008) before returning to his alma mater in 2009, becoming the Wildcats’ co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in the first year of Bill Snyder’s second head coaching stint.
K-State’s defense improved across the board. It’s seen in the raw numbers, where the Wildcats rose from No. 117 to No. 40 in total defense, No. 110 to No. 48 in scoring defense and No. 112 to No. 16 in rushing defense compared to the 2008 season.
But his time with the Wildcats was short lived, as he moved on after one season to become Illinois’ defensive coordinator. He was North Carolina’s defensive coordinator and safeties coach from 2012 to 2014 before joining Brown at Troy in 2015.
Martin said he had met with Brown about Koenning’s comments but didn’t indicate when it occurred.
Brown said in a statement released by the school Tuesday night that he was “sick about today’s events” and that Martin had every right to express his opinion.” Brown said he talked with all parties involved, including the defense as a unit and the entire team.
“I again emphasized to our team that our program culture will be one of acceptance, respect, tolerance, and positive relationships,” Brown said. “We will listen, learn and grow from this together, as a family, to become even more united.”
Martin said the latest incident happened Monday, when Koenning shared a conversation he had with his son about protests over racial injustice.
Martin, who is Black, said Koenning’s “exact words were, ‘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 spoke up right away and asked what Koenning meant but said Koenning “couldn’t give a straight answer.” A graduate assistant stepped in to try to defuse the situation.
Martin said Koenning then asked him to stay on the call and “wanted to apologize and give clarity on what he said.”
During a June 2019 workout in Morgantown, Martin said Koenning “called me retarded for doing the wrong technique.” Martin said he has family members who are mentally ill, ”and for him to say that hurt me because it was an action we could fix.”
During 2019 spring football practices, Martin said Koenning antagonized defensive back Derek Pitts “for believing in something that (Koenning) didn’t believe,” Martin said.
Martin said Koenning then would discuss religion and the Bible in front of Pitts, who transferred last summer to Marshall.
Martin said Koenning found out last fall that Martin had converted his religious beliefs “and pulled me into his office on multiple occasions and talked about religion.” Martin said Koenning also has made him read passages from the coach’s Bible.
Koenning also would discuss his views on politics during position meetings during the 2019 season, according to Martin.
“No, Coach Vic is not a bad person and he does mean well in many (different) aspects, but his heinous actions towards us overrules the good things he has done,” Martin said.