At a time in our country’s history when issues of racism and injustice have rightly led all of us to important conversations that we fully embrace, we have been confronted with an issue of our own that challenges us to uphold the standards of integrity and accountability that are central to our mission.
The values and mission of the Utah Athletics Department are built around serving our student-athletes and caring for their health, safety and well-being. It is our responsibility to provide them with an inclusive environment in which every member of our Department—students, coaches and staff—feels respected and valued. That means allegations of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual identity or national origin will not go unchecked. Our integrity and our character are defined by the way we serve the needs of our students and staff and by our actions when our commitments to equity and inclusion are challenged.
On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, we were notified of a social media post that suggested a current member of our football coaching staff, Morgan Scalley, had sent a text message with racist language in 2013. We immediately initiated conversations with our campus partners to establish a path to a swift and fair examination of the allegation. That evening, we spoke with Coach Scalley, who confirmed that he sent a text message that contained a derogatory word.
By Friday, June 5, 2020, we informed Coach Scalley of his immediate suspension and he issued a public apology. We also announced that the University would seek an outside firm to investigate the matter. By Sunday, June 7, the University had retained the Kansas City law firm of Husch Blackwell to immediately begin a review of the matter.
Husch Blackwell began its review on Monday, June 8, and conducted 35 interviews with current and former student-athletes, coaches and staff members associated with the Utah Football program, including 23 past or present student-athletes. The findings from those interviews were compiled in an investigative report provided to the University, which is attached with this letter.
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. 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.
We have thoroughly evaluated all of the information available to us to determine the most appropriate conclusion and the 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.
Therefore, we have determined that Coach Scalley will remain in his position on the football staff, but the seriousness of his actions warrants the following:
- 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.
- 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 Instead, his new contract will revert to his 2018 compensation level in the form of a one-year term for $525,000.
- 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.
In our continuing efforts to work closely with our student-athletes to address issues of systemic inequity and racism in society, $100,000 previously directed to Coach Scalley’s compensation will be redirected to enhance programming and staffing support to the Athletics Department’s U.T.A.H. Group (United Together Against Hate), a student-athlete forum launched in early 2019.
We recognize the magnitude of this decision and the incredibly complex nature of these issues. We are grateful to all who participated in the review and who provided thoughtful and important information to evaluate. We also thank you for your patience during this process.
Director of Athletics
Head Football Coach
Listen to a press conference recorded on July 1, 2020 with remarks from Mark Harlan, Kyle Whittingham and Morgan Scalley from July 2, 2020.