SALT LAKE CITY — Defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley has been suspended by the University of Utah for using racist language in a 2013 text message. Mark Harlan, director of athletics, made the announcement Friday. 

“On Wednesday night, I was made aware of a social media post that referenced a 2013 text message that included racist language, sent by our football program’s defensive coordinator, Morgan Scalley,” Harlan said. “I initiated conversations with our campus partners, including President (Ruth) Watkins, and we agreed to have an outside firm review this matter, to seek further details and determine whether this was an isolated incident.”

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

The suspension is effective immediately as a review of the matter is conducted.

“The use of any form of racist language is not only antithetical to our policies and our values, but it is an affront to all of us, especially our African American community members,” Harlan said.

Scalley and Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham also released statements.

“In 2013 I made a terrible mistake. I used a racial slur in a text message,” Scalley said. “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.”

Additional apologies by Scalley followed.

“I am also heartbroken over the potential breach of trust with my fellow coaches, and with the young men in our program, both past and present,” he said. “I am truly sorry, and I own up to the hurtful effects of my choice. Through my actions and words going forward, I will demonstrate that my use of that slur in 2013 does not reflect or define who I am or what I stand for. My action is indefensible and I will use my voice and position to bring about meaningful and much-needed change.”

In accepting the suspension, Scalley noted that he will use the time to “reflect on the “insensitive comment from 2013” and intends to listen and grow from the situation. 

“I am completely against racism, and this will never happen again,” Scalley said.

Two former players, Julian Blackmon and Terrell Burgess, both of whom were selected in the 2020 NFL draft, posted on Twitter their support for their former coach. Another former player posted an unconfirmed tweet that he had been the target of a racial slur from Scalley.

Whittingham acknowledged being “disappointed” and ”shocked” this week to learn of the text message containing a racial slur sent by Scalley in 2013.

“I take very seriously the hurt, pain and anger felt by African Americans, and the power of words to inflict or deepen that pain,” Whittingham said. “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.”

Scalley, who was an All-American safety for Utah’s Fiesta Bowl championship team, is entering his fifth season as defensive coordinator and 13th as safeties coach for the Utes. He has also served as recruiting coordinator (2009-15) and special teams coordinator (2015) as a member of the staff. His coaching career began with stints as an administrative assistant (2006) and graduate assistant (2007). 

In 2019, Scalley was a finalist for the Broyles Award as the nation’s top assistant as Utah’s defense ranked among the best in the country.

Later in December, Utah officials announced that Scalley’s contract was being amended to help ensure his long-term commitment.

“He’s a guy that’s obviously a hot commodity and had options, many options,” Whittingham said at the time. “And so that put everything to rest and let recruits know that he’s going to be here for the long term, which is huge for our program. That was great.”

Scalley, a former Highland High star, made it clear that Utah is where he wants to be.

“I don’t want to go anywhere. I love my family. I love this place. I love this university and their faith in me, their trust in me,” he said. “As well, I love the players. I see something special in this program, where we can head and there’s really no reason for me to leave right now.”

Contributing: Ryan McDonald