SALT LAKE CITY — On the morning of the Utes’ first official practice for the 2020 season, Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley was rather chipper when his turn came to participate in Friday’s virtual press conference.

“We’re back in football,” Scalley said with a smile when greeted by a reporter. “It’s awesome.”

That isn’t something Scalley takes for granted after being disciplined this offseason when it came to light that he’d used a racial slur in a text back in 2013.

“It’s been a blessing just to be back with the players again, understanding that I’ve got a lot of work to do in gaining their trust back. I had a lot of very open and honest conversations with our players. It’s been fantastic.” — Utah defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley

The consequences included a three-week suspension, the loss of his “head coach-in-waiting” status and a reduction in pay and length of contract (from a multi-year deal at $1.1 million to $525,000), among other things. He was also required to engage with the university’s “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion” leadership team and to participate in diversity and inclusion education on a regular basis.

Friday’s interview marked the first time Scalley had spoken in public since the news broke and an independent investigation was conducted in May and June. The longtime Ute assistant expressed deep remorse for his remarks in a letter from the university in July.

“It’s been a blessing just to be back with the players again, understanding that I’ve got a lot of work to do in gaining their trust back,” Scalley said. “I had a lot of very open and honest conversations with our players. It’s been fantastic.

“I love my job. I love teaching and coaching, not only doing things with our team but with our athletic department. It’s been a blessing to be back with the players I love.”

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Whittingham expressed regret about Scalley’s use of language in the 2013 text in the July letter, but he also continued to support the former All-American safety and his assistant of 12 years.

“Phenomenal. He’s an outstanding football coach and and outstanding person,” Whittingham said. “We are just going ahead. We’ve put it behind us. We’ve all learned from it, particularly Morgan, from what transpired.

“We’re just going in a positive direction right now. Morgan has done a great job in how he’s handling it and the strides he’s made.”

Players weren’t made available for comment Friday morning, but offensive lineman Nick Ford showed Scalley some love on social media earlier this week. The two share a birthday, albeit 20 years apart.

“Happy birthday coach!!!” Ford wrote in a tweet that included a photo of Scalley. “Couldn’t ask for anyone else to share this day with. Here’s to 21 and 41.”