MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — For a few fleeting moments, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning pondered becoming the head coach at Troy instead of joining Neal Brown at West Virginia.
But divine intervention and, apparently, a word from Troy athletics director Jeremy McClain showed Koenning the light.
“Nah, I don’t think I was ever a serious candidate,” Koenning said Thursday. “Maybe in my mind I was, and maybe in the minds of some of the people in town, and some of the boosters and trustees. But not in the athletic director’s mind.”
While Koenning and Brown were receiving their official introductions at WVU on Thursday afternoon, Troy named Kansas offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey as its head coach.
“I did think that the head coaching job at Troy would be pretty cool,” Koenning said, “but my wife thought it probably wasn’t the best thing. I just said I’m going to trust in God and see where he leads us.”
Koenning called the decision to continue working with Brown in Morgantown “a path that God real quickly directed.” And the musings over the Troy position quickly evaporated.
“That’s neither here nor there anymore,” he said. “That’s like throwing a log in the river over there. It’s going to be down river pretty quick, and that one’s down river.”
The 58-year-old Koenning had one stint as a head coach, compiling a 5-29 record at Wyoming from 2000-2002. He added a sixth win in the 2011 Fight Hunger Bowl, coaching Illinois to a victory over UCLA after Ron Zook was fired.
Koenning also was at ground zero for the dawn of the Dabo Swinney era at Clemson in 1998. After the Tigers fired Tommy Bowden midseason, Swinney was promoted to interim coach and ultimately earned the job. Koenning was in his fourth season as Clemson’s defensive coordinator at the time, and despite producing top-25 defenses each year, he wasn’t going to be retained by Swinney and thus left for a one-year stint at K-State, his alma mater.
Koenning served three seasons as coordinator at North Carolina before intersecting with Brown at Troy in 2015. His Trojan defenses enjoyed sustained success:
— Ranked No. 2 nationally with 106 takeaways over the last four years.
— Produced a school-record 112 tackles for loss in 2017 and ranked No. 7 in the FBS at 3.23 sacks per game.
— Last season, Troy’s ranked 28th in scoring defense (22 points per game) and 31st in total defense (347.9 yards).
Nine seasons have elapsed since Koenning coached in the Big 12, though he interviewed last year for the Oklahoma State coordinator job that went to Jim Knowles. He realizes this conference’s penchant for shootouts can make defensive success relative.
“A friend of mine on that [OSU] staff said it’s a graveyard for defensive coaches,” Koenning said. “It’s going to be interesting.”
Koenning is ahead of the curve in one aspect at West Virginia, being familiar with “Country Roads.”
“I grew up a John Denver fan, so I don’t even have to worry about learning the words,” he said. “I’ve been to a few of his concerts back in the day.”