Utah’s athletic department is making an even bigger investment in defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley, who will have a rebuilding project in 2020 with the anticipated loss of eight starters.

Scalley, who was in the first year of a two-year contract that pays him $820,000 annually, received a “contract amendment,” the school announced Monday. The deal is designed to ensure Scalley's presence in the football program “for years to come,” Ute coach Kyle Whittingham said in a statement.

Scalley's name was connected to UNLV's head coaching position. Three other Mountain West programs have vacancies: Colorado State, New Mexico and Fresno State.

“I’m grateful to be in this position, and fully committed to the Utah football family,” Scalley said.

Terms were undisclosed, but Monday’s news is an unprecedented case of Utah’s announcing a new contract for a current assistant coach in any sport, further establishing Scalley’s value to the program. A related factor is the NCAA’s early signing period next week. Whittingham and Scalley made a home visit Sunday to Van Fillinger, a defensive end from Corner Canyon High School who recently reopened his recruitment after previously committing to Texas.

Scalley is among five finalists for the Broyles Award that will be presented to the country's top assistant coach this week in Little Rock, Ark.

Scalley, 40, played defensive back for Utah’s unbeaten team in 2004. He became the full-time safeties coach in 2008, was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2016 when John Pease retired and is considered a potential replacement for Whittingham, who turned 60 in November and has said he’s unlikely to coach past age 64.

Utah athletic director Mark Harlan awarded Scalley a new contract in February, with one year remaining on his previous deal. The agreement came with a 56% raise, matching the $820,000 salary that offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig received in moving from Vanderbilt of the Southeastern Conference. Those contracts made them two of the five top-paid assistant coaches among the 10 public schools in the Pac-12, just behind Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo ($825,000).

In a tweet Monday, Harlan described Scalley as a “great coach and even better person.”

Scalley’s defense allowed 239 yards rushing and 432 total yards to Oregon in a 37-15 loss in the Pac-12 championship game. The Utes still rank No. 1 nationally in rushing defense (70.3) and No. 3 in total defense (256.2), going to the Alamo Bowl vs. Texas on Dec. 31 in San Antonio.

Ute safety Julian Blackmon last week labeled Scalley “a genius,” saying Utah's defensive success is “because of him.”

Scalley personally coaches Blackmon and Terrell Burgess, safeties who have been selected to the Senior Bowl all-star game. Three other Ute defensive starters also have been invited and junior cornerback Jaylon Johnson likely will join them, once he declares for the NFL draft.

Whittingham carried a play-call sheet on the sideline during Scalley's first season as coordinator, suggesting his high level of involvement with the defense. “Not so much now,” Whittingham said in October. “It’s his show. He’s doing a great job, and not just Morgan — his entire staff is doing a great job. … It’s a collaborative effort, but Morgan is the leader of that group.”

The rest of the defensive staff includes Sharrieff Shah (cornerbacks), Colton Swan (linebackers), Sione Po’uha (tackles) and Lewis Powell (ends).