Ex-players are defending suspended Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley, but some had a problem with him

(Scott Sommerdorf | Tribune file photo) Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley yells instructions to his defensive players during practice, Saturday, August 20, 2016.

University of Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley was placed on immediate suspension late Friday in the wake of athletic director Mark Harlan becoming aware of a social media post that referenced a 2013 text message that included racist language.

When something this severe becomes public, especially during these times of significant social unrest following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, reactions are sure to be swift, both positively and negatively. In turn, opinions, defenses and further accusations have poured in regarding Scalley.

“Love you coach. Just know I played for this guy and I can assure you he’s not a racist. Just unlucky cause of the platform he’s on. As well as what’s already going on in America. Hard to judge cause most of us say things in private that don’t get exposed like this. All love,” Julian Blackmon tweeted on Friday evening.

@SafetyPride is a great coach but an even better human being. This man may be a lot of things like hard nosed and loud but one thing for sure is he isn’t racist,” Terrell Burgess added. “Obviously whatever was said is unacceptable but this does not portray the great character and warm heart he has.”

Blackmon and Burgess are coming from a place of every-day interaction with Scalley, who has been the defensive coordinator since 2016, but has also been the safeties coach since 2008. Blackmon was three times an All-Pac-12 selection, including 2019 at safety. Burgess also earned All-Pac-12 honors in 2019 at safety.

Within Utah’s safety fraternity, of which Scalley is a member, having been named Mountain West Co-Defensive Player of the Year as a senior of the Utes’ vaunted 2004 team, Marcus Williams also came to his defense.

In a Twitter thread Saturday evening, Williams, who played in 37 games for Utah from 2014-16 before leaving for the NFL Draft, was adamant that Scalley is not a racist, while labeling him as “a role model, a great coach, a great father, a great mentor and so much more!”

Williams continued: “He embraces the black community with his whole heart and has never shown me different. He has welcomed me into his family as I have him into mine.

“He is a man of integrity, faith and someone that will own up to his mistakes and not let one mistake define him. He is one of the most honest and trustworthy people that I know and tbh seeing all the comments and hate hurts me deep to the core.

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but coming from someone who has experienced the totality of him can tell you what an amazing person he is inside and out.”

Former Utes wide receiver Raelon Singleton and incoming freshman safety Nate Ritchie also offered defenses and positive words, but not everyone else was on board.

In the immediate aftermath of Friday’s suspension announcement, former Utes defensive back Ryan Lacy, who played in 24 games on defense between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, was one of the more outspoken former players against Scalley.

In a scathing tweet, Lacy accuses Scalley of using a racial slur towards him in 2008. Lacy goes on to say he held on to the moment until he was a senior in 2013. He brought his problem to Scalley, who Lacy said gave him a “half-ass apology.”

Sean Smith, whose 36 career games from 2006-08 included an All-Mountain West first-team selection at defensive back in 2008, Scalley’s first season as safeties coach, echoed Lacy.

“Wowwww!!!!!! I F’n knew it!!!!!! And what u mean “men of color?”. See the truth always comes out. F that Utah was crazy, I seen some s***!!!! And my teammates know wassup. Let’s see if Saftey Pride gone speak up and be honest,” Smith tweeted Friday night.

In Friday’s press release, Harlan said an outside firm has been retained to obtain further information and determine whether or not the 2013 text message was an isolated incident. A timetable for the investigation, as well as any potential next steps as a result, is unknown.

Scalley’s suspension comes with pay. On Dec. 9, Utah announced a “contract amendment” to a two-year deal that was paying him $820,000 per year. The amendment has not yet been made public via GRAMA request, but the widely-held assumption is that Scalley is at the top of the list to succeed Kyle Whittingham whenever he decides to retire.

Utah is readying to welcome back student-athletes, including football players, for voluntary workouts beginning Monday. Coaches cannot be a part of the voluntary workouts.