West Virginia University football assistant coach Vic Koenning apologized to defensive back Kerry Martin Jr. and the rest of the team Wednesday night, saying he never intended to offend through his words or actions. He also said he would cooperate fully with the independent investigation of allegations that he had made insensitive remarks about different races, religions and those with special needs.
Martin went to Twitter on Tuesday with numerous claims against Koenning and the second-year WVU defensive coordinator was placed on paid administrative leave Tuesday night pending the results of the investigation. An athletic department spokesman said Wednesday that the investigation already had begun and was being conducted by a group outside the university.
On Wednesday, it was Koenning who took to Twitter to offer his thoughts.
“I respect Kerry Martin’s right to share that some of my words and actions impacted him,” Koenning wrote. “I care deeply for KJ and, when given the opportunity to speak to him directly, am optimistic we can find common ground.
“In the interim,” he continued, “I want to offer my sincere apology to both KJ and the entire WVU family.”
Among Martin’s allegations is that Koenning said in a Zoom team meeting Monday that “if people did not want to get tear gassed or push-back by the police, then the shouldn’t be out protesting.” Martin also said Koenning apologized to him after that meeting. Martin also claimed that, in a 2019 team meeting, Koenning said that President Donald Trump needed “to build the wall and keep Hispanics out of the county.”
Also, Martin accused Koenning of “antagonizing” former teammate Derrek Pitts over his Muslim faith, and reading Martin Bible Scriptures after Koenning learned Martin had converted to Islam. Martin also claimed Koenning called him “retarded” after a mistake in a position drill.
“I never intended anything I said or did to offend or be insensitive,” Koenning wrote Wednesday. “But KJ’s Tweet reminded me that sometimes intent is not always clearly communicated.
“I’ve devoted the past 30 plus years of my life to serving young men through coaching,” he continued. “I’ve always tried to see things from the perspective of others. I’m not perfect — but I’m also not the person many on social media have painted me to be. I’m still learning every day and this is an opportunity for me to learn, listen and improve.”
As of Wednesday evening, Martin had not yet responded on Twitter to Koenning’s statement.
WVU football head coach Neal Brown said little about the situation during a Zoom conference with media. He did open the conference saying Tuesday was “a tough day.”
“I’m sick about it,” he said. “I care deeply about everyone involved and I care deeply about everyone in our program. We have and will continue to build a culture that is relationship-driven.”
Brown also said he believed the investigation would be a “quick process.” Late Tuesday night, he sent out a letter discussing the issue and saying he waited to speak publicly so he could first talk to Martin, Koenning, the team and the WVU administration.
Brown wrote that he first learned of Martin’s concerns via Twitter, which would contradict one of Martin’s claims that he had met with Brown to discuss “mistreatment” he had received from Koenning.
“After speaking with Kerry,” Brown wrote Tuesday, “I took immediate action. Along with (Athletic Director Shane Lyons) 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.”
Brown said Wednesday he wanted to make sure the WVU football program is one where players can feel comfortable addressing their concerns.
“We have an open policy and I think that you continue to learn and continue to get feedback,” Brown said. “If that’s an area where we need to grow, then we need to grow. But I feel confident in being able to talk. Our guys have a voice, I respect that voice and that’s their right.”