Did Utah DC Morgan Scalley escape real punishment?

Ryan Kostecka

Does the punishment fit the crime?

That's the question that's going to be asked not just in Utah fan chat rooms, but throughout college and professional sports, following Utah athletic director Mark Harlan and head football coach Kyle Whittingham's decision to retain defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley.

Scalley was originally suspended on June 5 when it came to light that he used a racial slur in a text message exchange with a recruit back in 2013. He was immediately suspended by Harlan, and his employment would be further determined following the results of an independent investigation by Kansas City law firm Husch Blackwell.

Now at the conclusion of the investigation, Harlan and Whittingham penned a letter detailing their reasoning for keeping Scalley on staff, noting his relationship with current and former players and his willingness to accept responsibility of the situation.

"We have thoroughly evaluated all of the information available to us to determine the most appropriate conclusion and path forward. The racist language used by Coach Scalley is inexcusable and harmful to all, particularly to those communities identified in the report. We believe, and expect, that he will learn and lead, while owning his past conduct, to rebuild trust, reconcile harm caused and make a positive impact on the lives of student-athletes."


According to the results of the investigation, both Harlan and Whittingham consulted with Utah's Leadership Council, a 13-player committee that leads the team. They also met with the team itself to further understand their expectations and emotions on the matter, coming to the conclusion that they wanted Scalley to stay with the program.

"In addition to the information provided in the report, we have engaged in multiple conversations with student-athletes in the football program to listen and to understand their perspectives as we have worked through this process," Harlan and Whittingham wrote in the letter. "That included an in-depth conversation with the 13-member Leadership Council, a diverse group of student-athletes from the team’s various classes, as well as a meeting with the entire team in which we presented the serious and significant findings of the report. These conversations were insightful and candid, which provided an even deeper level of understanding of the range of emotions our student-athletes are feeling. They communicated to us their concerns and expectations, as well as their strong support for Coach Scalley to remain on the staff." 

While it appears that Harlan and Whittingham did the right thing with the investigation and speaking with the current team, is that enough to warrant keeping a coach with MULTIPLE examples of using a racial slur in the past?

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While Scalley gets to stay on board in his same role, what were his exact consequences and do they realistically fit the crime committed? Listed below are the consequences...

1) Coach Scalley will engage with leadership of the University’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team, including Vice President Mary Ann Villarreal. He will participate in regular and on- going diversity and inclusion education, and will be expected to be a key partner in addressing issues of racism and bias in the Utah Athletics Department, the University and the broader community.
2) In December 2019, the University and Coach Scalley verbally agreed to a multi-year extension of his contract, increasing his annual compensation to $1.1 million. Instead, his new contract will revert to his 2018 compensation level in the form of a one-year term for $525,000.
3) In December 2019, Director of Athletics Mark Harlan extended a verbal offer to Coach Scalley to become the Head Coach In-Waiting, which Harlan has now rescinded. 

Is this enough, though? 

1a.) Scalley was already one of the most outspoken members of the Utah athletic department regarding the George Floyd murder and the BLM movement, so being a key partner in addressing issues of racism and bias in the Utah Athletics Department, the University and the broader community will be no issue.

1b.) Scalley will be losing his multi-year extension money for the upcoming season, not a significant loss considering he was expected to be earning $1.1 million for the 2021 season. But his new 1-year contract leaves him available for an extension or restructuring next season, so there's a lot that can happen in that time period.

1c.) While the head coach in-waiting verbiage is no longer part of his contract, it's hard to imagine Utah moving past Scalley should the head coach position become available.

Ultimately, this decision by Harlan and Whittingham extends far beyond Scalley and the University of Utah. They have now set a precedent that the use of a racial slur is socially acceptable within their program as long as the guilty makes amends for it. This is a decision that other college and professional programs can look toward when faced with their own indiscretions regarding racial acts in athletics. 

It's not up to me to decide if Harlan and Whittingham made the correct decision or not to keep Scalley. My personal/professional experience with Scalley has been nothing but polite, respectful and real — but as a person of color who has experienced racism in the state of Utah and beyond, it's difficult to forgive and even harder to forget.

Regardless, the decision has been made and Scalley will resume his role in the coaches box come Saturdays during the fall. Whether or not that's right, it's up to everyone else to debate and decide.

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Twitter — @UtahUtes_SI and Ryan Kostecka at @Ryan_Kostecka

Comments (14)
No. 1-4

It is easy to see this article is biasly written; It hides the supporting comments in this case and gives the voice to the minority comments. Even the very person who the word was used to, came out in support of Scalley. We don't need this kind of propaganda at this time. I don't Scalley as a person and do not have biased opinion of what should be done. but this article is clearly an opinion piece without giving the reader all the information. Please see article of Scalley on 247 Utezone. They actually give the report, then make the decision for yourself.


So at what point is the punishment going to be enough then? For what seems to be an isolated incident a few years back plus the remarks of a few other disgruntled individuals, I am confused what the author is advocating for here. The tone of the article suggests that more should have been done, but what? Fire Morgan and ban him from ever working in this nation again? Jail time? The death penalty?

Clearly he made a mistake. He has owned that mistake. Honestly, I am of the opinion that instead of using that unspeakable word in a racial context, he did it out of a misguided understanding that he was ingratiated enough with the African American students with whom he works that using the word was acceptable. (The double standard surrounding this word is ridiculous - either a word is acceptable or it is not - but that is a whole other argument...) It seems like the players have forgiven him and want him back, so I fail to understand how the author still questions the punishment.

Does the author of this article advocate punishing every coach who ever uttered this word even once? Should we hunt down and remove any coach who has ever used inappropriate or degrading language with a student athlete? Or could we maybe use this time to teach coaches how things should be done?

In my opinion, my limited interactions with Morgan lead me to believe that he is a good man who made a mistake. His proverbial pound of flesh has been removed. It's time to move on.


Too little; Too late imvho. w/e


I have read the AD’s statement and it does not say or imply that Scalley’s compensation will revert to 1.1M after one year. Rather, he previously had a multi year deal and now he has a 1 year deal. This means at the end of the year, he may or may not have a job depending on the usual factors plus presumably an evaluation of his conduct with respect to the current issue. Going from a 1.1M multi year deal to a 1 year deal at less than half the comp is a much bigger punishment than you make it out to be.