West Virginia Places Fmr. Illini Coach On Administrative Leave After Accusations Of ‘mistreatment and racism’

West Virginia sophomore safety Kerry Martin Jr. accused behavior his defensive coordinator Vic Koenning of insensitive behavior on Twitter. Koenning coached at Illinois from 2010-11.

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- West Virginia University has placed defensive coordinator Vic Koenning on administrative leave Tuesday following a football player taking to Twitter to accuse Koenning, who coached at Illinois over nine years ago, of inappropriate behavior.

West Virginia sophomore safety Kerry Martin Jr., called for “a change in our program,” Tuesday in a long social media post detailing what he considered inappropriate language and insensitive behavior from the Mountaineers defensive coordinator.

Martin’s accusations against Koenning included alienating both Martin and former West Virginia defensive back Derrek Pitts over their religious beliefs, using a slur for mental illness in the direction of players during practice and using insensitive language toward the 'Black Lives Matter' protestors in a Zoom video conference meeting with his players.

“The Most recent incident with Coach Vic was in our position meeting on June 22, 2020,” Martin wrote in a notes post on his phone that was sent out to Twitter. “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 tear 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 a straight answer.”

Baylor Bears running back John Lovett (7) tries to leap West Virginia Mountaineers safety Kerry Martin Jr. (15) during the second quarter at McLane Stadium.

Baylor Bears running back John Lovett (7) tries to leap West Virginia Mountaineers safety Kerry Martin Jr. (15) during the second quarter at McLane Stadium.

The athletic department released a statement Tuesday evening confirming Koenning’s status and an investigation taking place by the university.

“I want to thank Kerry Martin for having the courage to bring his concerns to light,” athletic director Shane Lyons said in the university release. “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."

During the social post, Martin also alleges that, after speaking with Koenning on a recruiting trip, his high school coach described the WVU defensive coordinator as having a “Slave Master mentality.”

Koenning was the defensive coordinator at Illinois from 2010-11 under then-head coach Ron Zook and the Illini won the 2011 Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl against UCLA after Zook was fired before the game.

Martin also alleged he has had meetings with West Virginia head football coach Neal Brown about Koenning’s alleged mistreatment of players since Koenning’s hiring in Jan. 2019. The player further stated that he has kept this past incidents quiet due to he “didn’t want to bring negativity to the program.”

“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 and many of us are uncomfortable with being around him,” Martin wrote in his Twitter message.

According to reports from local media, Brown has a previously-scheduled Zoom meeting with the reporters scheduled for Wednesday where he’ll address the issues with Koenning.

Koenning has had a lot of stops in his coaching career before following Brown to West Virginia after being a part of his staff at Troy from 2015-2018. Previously Koenning was associate head coach at North Carolina from 2012-14 under Larry Fedora, Kansas State associate head coach in 2009 under Bill Snyder, Clemson defensive coordinator from 2005-08 under Tommy Bowden, Troy defensive coordinator from 2003-04, defensive coordinator from 1997-99 at Wyoming and an assistant at Memphis from 1986-96. Koenning’s only full-season head-coaching experience came by going 5-29 in three seasons at Wyoming from 2000-02.