Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley will retain his position after the school conducted an external review into his use of a racial slur in a 2013 text message, but he will take a significant pay cut and Utah has rescinded its offer for Scalley to become the head-coach-in-waiting at his alma mater, the school announced on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, Scalley admitted he texted a racial slur to a recruit in 2013 while exchanging messages with another coach, and he was suspended on June 5. On June 7, the school hired the Kansas City law firm of Husch Blackwell to investigate whether the text message was an isolated incident, or part of a broader pattern of racially offensive comments or conduct.
In a letter released Wednesday from Utah athletic director Mark Harlan and coach Kyle Whittingham, they determined that while Scalley will remain on staff, “the seriousness of his actions” warranted changes to his contract. In December 2019, Scalley verbally agreed to a multiyear extension, increasing his annual compensation to $1.1 million. His new contract will revert to his 2018 compensation level in the form of a one-year term for $525,000.
“He’s here because the young men professed their — in some cases — love for him, and that was a critical part of my thinking and coach as well,” Harlan said Wednesday. “A man is not judged solely by moments in time. A man is judged by the body of his entire work, and this does not take away anything of the seriousness of what we’re talking about here. Believe me, I was flat-out angry when it happened, not pleased with everything in the report at all, but also lifted by the qualities that were shown by so many of our young men about what they like about Morgan. The consequences here are more than appropriate.”
As part of his agreement to return, Scalley will also participate in regular and ongoing diversity and inclusion education, and will be expected to help address issues of racism and bias in the athletic department, the university, and the entire community.
Scalley’s voice cracked as he spoke to reporters on a teleconference, and he was overcome with emotion to the point he had to pause to collect himself as he directly addressed his current and former players, saying, “Gentlemen if you’re listening … I apolo …” he whispered. “I apologize.”
The investigation was based on interviews with 35 individuals, including 23 current and former members of the football team and 15 current and former employees and football program consultants. While there were some allegations of other racially insensitive behavior in the report, including using the “N-word” prior to 2013, Scalley denied those, but he did admit to telling a “joke” about Polynesians and Native Americans at a practice in 2018.
The investigation also stated most of the athletes interviewed described having “a positive relationship with Scalley,” who was characterized “as aggressive, emotional, and someone who cares about his players.” He met with the entire team through a Zoom call on Tuesday morning, a setting which he said made it difficult to gauge their reactions.
“Whether they are grateful I’m back, whether they’re hurt that I’m back, it’s my job to repair any damage that I’ve done and I look forward to that opportunity,” he said.
Scalley called the investigation a “very fair and professional process.”
“I own up to my past conduct, and accept fully the consequences,” he said. “I’m grateful for Mark and Coach Whit in allowing me this opportunity to show them I can be better and [getting to] be back on the team and coach these young men is enough for me and I appreciate that.”
According to the report, most of the players interviewed “did not report ever hearing Scalley or any of the other coaches use racial slurs or make derogatory comments. Numerous student-athletes explained that they do not view Scalley as racist.”
The report also stated several former student-athletes alleged Scalley made comments about their hair, appearance, or clothing that they believe implicated racial stereotypes, but Scalley denied treating any of his players differently due to race. Two former players reported that prior to 2013, Scalley used the words “black ass” when addressing a player during practice. That player was interviewed during the investigation and confirmed the use of the words during the 2012 football season, but described it differently. Scalley also denied this allegation.
In the report, several coaches and former and current players said Scalley “can be intimidating and intense … yells frequently and verbally attack the players before apologizing.” Scalley denied he verbally attacks players.
Whittingham said 51 of the 57 players Scalley recruited to Utah were minorities, but “he’s going to have to work extra hard to get some of that trust back” on the recruiting trail.
“I have no doubt that will happen in time,” Whittingham said.
Scalley, a former All-American safety for the Utes, has worked the previous 12 seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, including the past four as defensive coordinator. He also coaches safeties and served as the program’s recruiting coordinator from 2009 to ’15.
“I love what I do, and I’m very passionate about what I do, and it would’ve killed me to have had to walk away,” he said. “I never want to walk away. This is the place I love.”
He paused again to collect himself.
“The players I love,” he said. “I’m grateful for this opportunity to be back.”