Koenning's Fall is Part of Trusting the Climb

Schuyler Callihan

"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."

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_.

Register today for free or log in to access this premium article.
Comments (22)
No. 1-6

Shame on you!!!


The old days huh? Say 7 or 8 yrs ago? Lol. Look if he had gone to the HC AND the AD and nothing was addressed the I'd leave. I would say THEN go to social media. That's not who I'd want running my program. You can ignore it if u want but it has already hurt this yrs recr class. You seem to tho k I'm on the opposite side of all you're saying but that's not so. I'm just saying it should've been handled differently. When confronted with the complaint Vic could've went through ...old maybe a sensitivity course or whatever . If handled internally things could've been worked out and the program made stronger for it. But hey that just the opinion of 50 yr fan and supporter of the program....what do I know? Lol


SO many people out there attacking a young man that bravely came forward & exposed a person in a powerful position using ignorant language & spouting political conspiracy theories instead of teaching The MOUNTAINEER Football Way & Healthy WVU Life Skills. Weak. Sad, too.


I didn't expect you to respond to your inaccurate quote or to pick another fake point you made. I am doing this so anyone reading this thread will know your lying as are whoever is behind this.
Martin said NB, Jon Carpenter and VK are lying. Possibly the ad, but zero chance Martin is?

I want to point out your accusation "you can invent your own set of "facts" iffn you want" was something that you are actually guilty of and refused to address.
The "you angry bro?" Accusation also is a reflection of your demeaner not mine. Take note of the use of all caps and exclamation points.

The school didn't have to pay him to leave if he was guilty.


Looks like SOMEONE likes paying assistant coaches that can't follow The MOUNTINEER Way $500,000 to leave. How is THAT a good thing?


This: The old "yeah but he's a 'good' person" trope is used to diminish & rationalize everything from murder, rape, DUI's & bank robbery to drug abuse, sexual harassment, ignorant racism, blatant misogyny, & bad breath.
Just STOP already.
"Good" people DO NOT murder other people. They don't rob banks, rape, abuse drugs, drive drunk, sexually harass, engage in random racism, misogyny, or any other criminal offenses & random anti-social behaviors. No.
Martin stood up & complained because he didn't like being called "retarded" for his religious choices. & have to listen to ignorant racist conspiracy theories from a person in a powerful position. THAT is "good". It is Right. It is also brave.
Koennig left because he was caught teaching racism, intolerance & ignorance, instead of MOUNTAINEER Football & life skills, which is WHAT HE WAS HIRED TO DO. And paid quite handsomely, I might add. THAT is BAD. It is Wrong. Cowardly, too.
HE also got paid $500,000+ TO LEAVE. That isn't "good" either imvho.
Since June 20, 1863 when West "By Gawd" Virginia succeeded from the racist "confederacy", True Blue MOUNTAINEERS have done the RIGHT thing. THAT is good. Brave. Proud.
Montani Semper Liberi & Hail West Virginia for EVER !!