A day after being put on administrative leave for being accused of mistreatment by a player, West Virginia defensive coordinator Vic Koenning has issued an apology.
WVU safety Kerry Martin Jr. took to Twitter on Tuesday to detail alleged inappropriate conduct from Koenning. Martin alleged that Koenning made insensitive comments about the recent protests against police brutality and racism, called him a slur for a mentally disabled person and said that President Trump should “build the wall and keep Hispanics out of the country.”
On Wednesday, Koenning apologized in a statement, saying he “never intended” for anything he “said or did to offend or be insensitive. Koenning said he will use this experience as “an opportunity to listen, learn and improve.”
“I respect Kerry Martin’s right to share that some of my words and actions impacted him. 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, I want to offer my sincere apology to both KJ and the entire WVU family,” Koenning said.
“I never intended anything I said or did to offend or be insensitive. But KJ’s tweet reminded me that sometimes intent is not always clearly communicated. I’ve devoted the last 30-plus years of my life to serving young men through coaching. 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 to listen, learn and improve.”
Koenning: ‘I stand against racism, social injustice’
In his post on Tuesday, Martin said he did not see Koenning as a bad person, but that he and many of his teammates feel “uncomfortable being around him,” a feeling they had been experiencing “for a while.” Martin also noted that he and his teammates wondered why Koenning never spoke up against injustice. Koenning said Wednesday it was because he felt that statements made by WVU head coach Neal Brown and the school’s administration “addressed those important issues on our behalf.”
“I fully supported their messages — then and now. At the time, I did not see the need to issue a separate statement,” Koenning wrote. “Again, I recognize that this only takes into account my perspective and not that of the players I am leading. Of course I stand against racism and social injustice of any kind. I hope my players know that already, but I proudly say it now. There is no place for that any time, anywhere or any place.”
Hours following Martin’s tweet, West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons placed Koenning on administrative leave, effective immediately. Lyons praised Martin “for having the courage to bring his concerns to light” and said the school would conduct an investigation into the allegations.
Koenning said he will fully cooperate with the investigation.
“I look forward to fully cooperating with WVU’s independent investigation by sharing what is in my heart and getting to the truth,” Koenning said. “I will have no further comment out of respect for the process. We will get through this together and be stronger as a team for it.”
Koenning arrived at WVU in 2019 when Brown was hired as the Mountaineers’ head coach. Koenning previously worked under Brown at Troy for four seasons. Martin played in 12 games in 2019 as a freshman, including four starts. He totaled 50 tackles on the season.
Neal Brown statement
On Tuesday night, Brown addressed the issue in a letter to the “Mountaineer Family.” Brown said he was “sick” about the day’s events and had spoken to all involved.
“I care deeply about everyone involved and have waited to speak publicly so that I could first speak with Kerry, Vic, the team, and our administration,” Brown said. “After speaking with Kerry, I took immediate action. Along with Shane 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.”
Brown said he emphasized to his team that he wanted the program’s culture to “be one of acceptance, respect, tolerance and positive relationships.”
“I ask everyone to be patient as we work through this process as quickly as possible,” Brown said. “We will listen, learn and grow from this together, as a family, to become even more united.”
West Virginia went 5-7 in 2019, Brown’s first year on the job. Before arriving at WVU, Brown had a 35-16 record over four seasons at Troy.
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