West Virginia University and football defensive coordinator Vic Koenning have mutually agreed to part ways. The school sent out a press release on Wednesday morning.
Koenning was placed on administrative leave on June 23 after safety Kerry Martin Jr., a former Capital High School All-State player, made claims on Twitter that the coach made insensitive and prejudiced comments to players on a routine basis.
Martin accused Koenning of personally calling him “retarded,” while making other comments about keeping Hispanics out of the country, tear-gassing social justice protestors and pushing Christianity onto Muslim players.
An investigation was opened immediately, with Wednesday’s announcement seemingly putting the issue to rest.
“This mutual separation is in the best interest of our football program,” WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons said via the release. “(Head) Coach (Neal) Brown and I have set high expectations for our coaches, staff and student-athletes, and it is that culture that will allow us to compete for championships. We are moving forward as a program and our coaches, staff and student-athletes have my complete confidence and support.”
“As I’ve stated previously, I care deeply about Vic and every player, coach, staff member, and administrator who touches our program,” Brown added. “This decision was not made lightly and both parties agree that it places us in the best position to positively move forward. Vic has meant a lot to this program over the past 18 months and to me, personally, for our time together both here and at Troy University. I know that Vic will find continued success as a coach. However, Vic and I both reached the conclusion that the current circumstances make continuing in his role as defensive coordinator challenging. At the end of the day, we all — Vic included — want what is best for our program.”
In Koenning’s first and only season in Morgantown, the WVU defense improved from 106th to 74th nationally in total defense, despite losing the bulk of the unit to graduation and transfer after the 2018 season. The Mountaineers also improved in scoring defense, jumping to 73rd from 90th in 2018.
Martin was a part of that defensive improvement, starting in four games and playing 12 at free safety while ranking sixth on the team in tackles with 50.
But according to Martin, problems with Koenning were an ongoing issue and his claims were seemingly supported by teammates via Twitter, including wideout Bryce Wheaton, who tweeted, “This is NOT a secret in our program.” Defensive linemen Dante and Darius Stills also publicly supported Martin through social media.
The final straw seemed to come on Monday, June 22 when, at a position meeting, Koenning said, “If people did not want to get tear-gassed or pushback by the police then they shouldn’t be out protesting.”
Koenning eventually apologized to Martin, but a day later, Martin took to Twitter.
“I have not told anyone else this that is not my family member or involved with my family … because I didn’t want to bring negativity to the program,” Martin tweeted on June 23. “But with everything going on and for him to still act this way and feel okay with saying what he said is not okay.”
Koenning had two seasons left on his contract in which he was owed $1,074,059. According to the release, he will be paid $591,451 of that over the next two years.
“I remain apologetic to anyone who perceived something I said or did as hurtful,” Koenning concluded in the release. “That was never my intent. I wish to thank all the current and former players, coaches and colleagues — of all different ethnicities and backgrounds — whose support and encouragement have been invaluable to me and my family. I am relieved the process is over but will be forever changed by the experience. Personally, I’d love to get back to coaching our guys, but I know that doing so would create additional scrutiny and lingering distractions for our program. Taking all this into consideration, we have come to this mutual decision to separate. I will always be grateful for the relationships formed with so many players, coaches and WVU supporters. I am not done coaching. I remain passionate about leading young men and look forward to the next coaching chapter in my life. I wish nothing but the best for all Mountaineers.”