Skip to main content
Publish date:

Koenning's Fall is Part of Trusting the Climb

West Virginia moving forward and in a better direction

"Liar," "transfer," "you’re soft," "snowflake," "traitor," "I would advise Neal Brown to not recruit any Charleston kids," "number 15 needs to go too," and "someone was just unhappy with their playing time."

All of the above are comments that are being thrown in the direction of West Virginia safety Kerry Martin Jr. since the day he made allegations of now former defensive coordinator Vic Koenning for mistreatment of players, and bringing up conversations involving religion and politics in team meetings and/or practice.

Folks are quick to taking sides before even knowing the facts of the situation. In this case, the facts are still unknown. After a month-long investigation, West Virginia and Vic Koenning "mutually agreed" to part ways. However, it is not necessarily a cheap breakup as the separation agreement will have West Virginia pay Koenning $591,451 over the next 19 months.

What I know about the situation and what you know about the situation are virtually the same thing. Details of the investigation have not been released, which has everyone jumping to conclusions, mainly siding with Koenning and jumping all over Martin. 

The truth is, there has to be some truth, if not all, surrounding this situation. Yes, Neal Brown denied knowing about the situation and Martin's high school coach also denied describing Koenning as someone who has a "’slave master’ mentality," but at the end of the day the university didn't feel that bringing him back was in the best interest of the program. That in itself says something. Not to mention some of Martin's teammates and former WVU teammates backed him up on social media.

Martin is a young college kid with a bright future ahead of him. I highly doubt he would risk his future to go on social media and make false allegations of a coach, potentially throwing everything away. I'm not in the position to say that everything Martin said was true because quite frankly, only a handful of people outside of the program really know. 

Koenning is a good guy and has a good heart - Martin even admitted that and also stated that he wasn't calling for his job. He just wanted change. But just because someone is a good person doesn't mean they are free of error. Regardless of your political/religious views or affiliation, politics and religion have no place in football practice or a meeting. Is it okay to have a group of players and coaches to talk about religion outside of football? Yes, absolutely - it happens everywhere. That is, unless it is in attempt to convert someone's religion. Let's be honest, bringing up politics and religion in any workplace is almost always forbidden. Think of it this way, if a Muslim coach was accused of pressuring a Christian student-athlete to convert his religion, everyone would be up in arms over it. Your religious preference is no one else’s business, no matter what religion you affiliate yourself with - that is your own beliefs. If someone becomes adamant about converting your religion, that's where there is a problem.

Earlier this week, I spoke to former Troy head coach Larry Blakeney, who worked alongside Koenning at one point in his career. Blakeney called this situation "unfortunate" and understands the decision, but believes Koenning will land back on his feet again. "He's honest to God one of the best people I've ever been around and worked with. Vic is a good person and he's got a big heart. I hope somebody gives him another opportunity."

Read More

So yes, the decision for Koenning and WVU to part ways is okay. Was it the right decision? No one knows, mainly because we don't know the details of the investigation. However, as good of a man Koenning is, it would be a tough and very uncomfortable situation for not only several of his players and colleagues, but for himself as well if he remained in the program. I think too may people confuse being soft for taking action and wanting change. If Koenning was every bit of what Martin accused him of, is that the type of person you want in the program? It will hurt recruiting first and foremost and could have enticed players to transfer at some point throughout their career and not because they're "soft".

Regardless of what your take is on the recent happenings, it is never okay to attack a player and become a cyber bully. Almost everything Martin tweets now has several comments underneath basically telling him to scoot. He could have opted to transfer and leave the situation as is, but he spoke out and wants to make the program a better place to be. Martin was born and raised in West Virginia and loves the state and its flagship university - he wears the "Flying WV" with pride. Whether you agree with how he went about things or not, he will be representing West Virginia this fall and he wants to do that. 

When Neal Brown first arrived to West Virginia he coined the phrase "Trust the Climb". When you are building something, you will take tumbles and will fall on hard times now and again, but it's all about the response. How does Brown and the staff respond to this? That's all a part in "Trusting the Climb". If you really do "Trust the Climb,” you will have put your full faith in the athletic department to have gotten this right. 

My opinion? Too many unknowns to really judge.

Do you still Trust the Climb? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below and discuss!

You can follow us for future coverage by clicking "Follow" on the top righthand corner of the page. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook & Twitter:

Facebook - @WVUonSI

Twitter - @SI_WVU and Schuyler Callihan at @Callihan_.