MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia sophomore safety Kerry Martin used his Twitter account Tuesday to speak out on issues involving defensive coordinator and position coach Vic Koenning, alleging insensitive actions and remarks.
“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.
As a result, Koenning was placed on administrative leave, according to athletic director Shane Lyons.
“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. 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 Charleston native and Capital High grad, claims Koenning tried to discuss religion in different situations, including trying to teach Christianity after he learned Martin converted religions last season. Other incidents involving religion include Koenning making former WVU safety Derrek Pitts, a Muslim in faith, question his beliefs. Pitts transferred to Marshall last summer.
Martin also alleges Koenning called him “retarded” following a mistake with technique on the field during a practice in June 2019.
“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, especially in that situation because I never was taught what to do in the situation I was in,” Martin wrote.
During preseason camp in 2019, Martin said Koenning talked about politics in team meeting, and one day, said President Donald Trump should, “build the wall and keep Hispanics out the country,” with a Hispanic WVU player in the position group.
The most recent incident came Monday, where Martin wrote Koenning brought up a conversation he had with his son about protests and riots, “If people did not want to get tear gassed, or push backed by police then they shouldn’t be outside protesting.”
Martin immediately spoke up but a graduate assistant intervened to get the conversation back to football, and Koenning kept Martin after the virtual meeting to apologize and clarify his remarks.
“No, coach Vic is not a bad person and he does mean well in many [different] aspects but his heinous actions towards us over rule (sic) the good things he has done and many of us are comfortable with being around him,” Martin wrote.
Martin later claimed that Koenning did bring him food during the COVID-19 quarantine.
“Coach Vic did visit me in Charleston to bring me food and as I said in my initial post he has done good by me and he is not a bad person but his thoughts and beliefs are mislead,” Martin tweeted.
Martin also claims he had meetings with head coach Neal Brown about the “mistreatment I have received from Coach Vic.”
Brown sent a letter to fans late Tuesday night.
“Mountaineer Family, I come to you [Tuesday night] sick about [Tuesday’s] events,” the letter read.
“Earlier [Tuesday], Kerry Martin expressed his voice and he had every right to do so. I first learned about Kerry’s stated concerns via Twitter. I care deeply about everyone involved and have waited to speak publicly so that I could first speak with Kerry, Vic, the team and our administration.
“After speaking with Kerry, I took immediate action. 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.”
Several teammates, including Nicktroy Fortune, Bryce Wheaton, Alec Sinkfield, Tony Mathis and Sam James, posted in support of Martin. Men’s basketball players Emmitt Matthews Jr., Taz Sherman and Gabe Osabuohien also showed their support.
Martin said he previously didn’t want to hurt the program, but the current social situations made him change his mind.
“Enough is enough,” he wrote.
Martin played a lot as a true freshman a year ago, mainly at free safety. He played in all 12 games and made four starts, finishing with 50 tackles, 2 1/2 for loss and five pass breakups.
Koenning came with Brown from Troy at the start of 2019 and has been with Brown for five years. He has coached at five schools throughout her career, including as the head coach at Wyoming for three seasons..