MORGANTOWN — West Virginia sophomore safety Kerry Martin, a football player with high potential in the Mountaineers’ secondary, took to social media Tuesday morning and accused defensive coordinator Vic Koenning of insensitive remarks toward himself and other players.
“I have myself 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 said.
West Virginia’s athletic department acted swiftly and put Koenning, who has spent the last five years as Coach Neal Brown’s defensive coordinator, on administrative leave while opening an investigation into the charges.
“I want to thank Kerry Martin for having the courage to bring his concerns to light,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons in a prepared statement released around 6 p.m. 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 said that before he went public with his charges, he met with head coach Neal Brown about the “mistreatment” he and some teammates had undergone from Koenning.
Before Martin’s Twitter post on Tuesday, Brown had scheduled a media conference call via ZOOM for Wednesday.
Martin alleged six incidents over the past two years, claiming Koenning went beyond acceptable behavior in dealing with players. This involved charges that Koenning tried to push his religious and political views on the players during meetings.
“Starting back in spring ball 2019 before guys started to transfer, Coach Vic has antagonized Derrek Pitts for believing in something he didn’t believe. He would make remarks about the Bible and talk about religion in front of Derrek, making him want to question the things he wanted to believe,” Martin wrote.
Martin, who played in 11 games last year and was credited with 45 tackles, 34 of them solo stops, also said Koenning tried to influence his own religious beliefs.
“Also, during the season he found out I have converted my religion and pulled me into his office on multiple occasions and talked about religion. He has also giving (sic) me a book about how to find Christ and has even read me scriptures out of his FCA Bible,” he wrote.
While unable to offer any details, Martin said that on a visit with his head coach at Capital High School in Charleston, where he played, Koenning impressed his head coach as having “a Slave Master mentality.”
This was what Martin posted online about that:
“Dating back in April of 2019 when coaches were out on the road recruiting he visited my old high school and had a conversation with my coach. I was not told anything that was said in the conversation but my coach did tell me my position coach had a ‘Slave Master’ mentality based of the conversation that was had and my old high school coach is a Caucasian man.”
Capital coach Jon Carpenter later would strongly deny that, according to Tom Bragg, former Charleston Gazette-Mail WVU beat writer.
“Neal Brown told me that [Martin] said I told him that somebody had a “slave owner” mentality. 100 percent no. I never told him that,” Bragg posted on Twitter.
“I’m heartbroken and shocked. Heartbroken that Kerry could feel that way. I think I’m speaking for everybody that coaches with us, but that’s new that he felt that way. It almost feels like a train wreck that I wish we could have got out in front of.
“It’s hard because I love Kerry Martin. Nobody would care two cents about Jon Carpenter the football coach if it wasn’t for people like Kerry Martin. I think you’ve known me long enough to know that I’ve burned all my bridges in WV high school football speaking out on racism.
“I told 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. 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.”
Martin offered an example, however, of what he felt was a “slave owner mentality”:
“During camp of 2019 we usually had walk through practice before our regular practice to go over things we would be doing that day. As we were finishing the walk through Coach Vic tells us “everyone get in the house and upstairs to the meeting as if we were his property.”
Martin also wrote:
“During our position meetings we talk about life a lot and his rants about politics. During the 2019 season he was talking about President Trump and about how he should ‘build the wall and keep Hispanics out of the country’ and there’s a Hispanic in the position meeting.”
There was also an incident when Martin accused Koenning of calling him “retarded” when he made a mistake on the field.
“In the month of June, 3 months 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 the wrong technique,” Martin wrote. “I have family members that are actually mentally ill and for him to say that hurt because it was an action we could fix, especially in that situation because I never was taught what to do in the situation I was in.”
Martin said the most recent incident came through a ZOOM call the defensive secondary had with Koenning in which he offered his political views on the protests going on across the country, leading to an incident that was short circuited by a graduate assistant and for which Koenning apologized.
“The most recent incident with Coach Vic was in our position meeting on June 22, 2020,” Martin said. “Coach Vic tells us about the conversation he had with his son about the rioting and protesting and his exact words were ‘if people did not want to get gassed or push back by the police then they shouldn’t be outside protesting.’
“I then spoke up instantly and asked what he meant by that and he couldn’t give me 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.
“The graduate assistant texts me during the meeting (you can see what he said in the next picture) justifying for him so things don’t escalate. 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 does mean well in many [different] aspects but his heinous actions towards us overrules the good things he has done and many of us are uncomfortable being around him.
“My teammates and I have been dealing with these situations for a while and there also has been occasions with him and another staff member.”
Martin said he had never discussed this with anyone outside his family because he didn’t want to “bring negativity to the program.” He, however, decided to go public because he felt Koenning didn’t seem to regret what he had said.
“Enough is enough,” he said.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel