Utah suspends defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley after a 2013 text in which he used a racist slur surfaces

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley yells out to his players as the Utah Utes hold their first of two major scrimmages of spring practice at Rice Eccles stadium on Saturday, March 30, 2019, prior to the April 13 Red-White Game.

University of Utah athletic director Mark Harlan late Friday afternoon announced an immediate suspension of defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley while the school investigates a social media post which referenced a 2013 text message from Scalley that included racist language.

Per an athletic department spokesman, Scalley, who was safeties coach and recruiting coordinator at Utah in 2013, will be suspended with pay. On Dec. 9, Utah announced a “contract amendment” for Scalley, designed to ensure his presence in the football program “for years to come.” At the time of the amendment, he was in the first year of a two-year contract, paying him $820,000 per season.

Harlan said in a statement that he was made aware of the social media post on Wednesday, He conferred with university leaders, including Utah President Ruth V. Watkins, and a determination was made to have an outside firm review the matter to determine if it was an isolated incident.

Harlan says he has spoken with Scalley, who was “very contrite and acknowledged that the text was sent and that it did include a derogatory and painful word.”

“In 2013 I made a terrible mistake,” Scalley said in the statement. “I used a racial slur in a text message. This language is offensive and hurtful to not only the African-American community, but to all. Immediately after sending it, I apologized to the recipient and his family.”

Added Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham: “I was disappointed and shocked to learn this week of a text message sent by Morgan Scalley in 2013 that contained a racial slur. I take very seriously the hurt, pain and anger felt by African-Americans, and the power of words to inflict or deepen that pain. Although this incident is inconsistent with the character and conduct of the person I have known and worked closely with for more than two decades, Morgan’s use of racist language is a very serious matter and I am supportive of the suspension while a more thorough outside review is conducted.”

The timing of the suspension coincides with nightly, nationwide rallies and protests against police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

A timetable for the conclusion of the outside investigation is unknown, but it comes at a time when Utah is readying to bring student-athletes back for voluntary workouts beginning June 15. Scalley and the coaching staff cannot participate, but if everything goes smooth, official training camp could start on time at Utah in late July.

Scalley has been at the University of Utah for nearly 20 years, both as a player and coach. The Mountain West co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2004, Scalley was an all-conference safety that season for the Utes’ vaunted 12-0 team, which was coached by Urban Meyer and finished No. 4 in the AP Top 25 after blowing out Pitt in the Fiesta Bowl.

As a coach, Scalley was recruiting coordinator from 2009-16, while coaching safeties and special teams in that time. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2016 after John Pease retired following the 2016 season.