Big 12 News

Utah Football Names Morgan Scalley the ‘Head Coach in Waiting’

Nov 12, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Utah Utes defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley looks on in the second quarter against the Stanford Cardinal at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, Utah Athletic Director Mark Harlan announced that the Utes’ football program agreed to new terms of employment with defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley in November of 2023.

According to a release from the University, the Utes formally designated Scalley as the football program’s head coach in waiting on November 23, 2023. Scalley is entering his 17th season on Kyle Whittingham’s staff and is an integral part of Utah’s success over that span.

“Coach Whittingham has built Utah Football into one of the nation’s elite programs through a strong culture, tradition, and exceptional student-athletes, and he has been clear about his intentions of continuing to lead this incredible Utah Football program as we move into the Big 12 Conference and into the new expanded College Football Playoff,” said Harlan.


“However, we must plan for the future, and Coach Whittingham and I both strongly believe that that future lies with Morgan Scalley. Morgan has played a critical role in our success through his embodiment of our core values and his leadership, and I have witnessed firsthand his growth as a coach and as a person over the last several years. He is an elite coach who has been trained by the best – Coach Whittingham – and whenever it is time for Morgan to take the helm, I have no doubt that our program will continue to have success.”

The announcement of such plans immediately begs the question: When will Whittingham — the winningest coach in Utah football history — hang up the whistle?

According to the release, Whittingham will “continue to lead the Utes into a new era as he enters his 20th season as head coach.” This announcement feels more about rewarding the longevity of Scalley’s tenure in Salt Lake City.


“Morgan Scalley is an exceptional football coach and his naming as the head coach in waiting at the University of Utah is a testament to that,” said Whittingham. “It is a distinction he has earned not only because of his outstanding coaching abilities, but also because of his selfless dedication to the program as well as to the Utah Athletics family. The culture and tradition within Utah Football is a point of pride for our staff, and when the time comes for a transition in the leadership of our program, we know that Morgan will carry on those traditions the Utah Football way.”

Scalley, a former Utah All-America safety, will begin his ninth season as the defensive coordinator in 2024 and has been coaching the safeties since joining the staff full-time in 2008. He served as Utah’s recruiting coordinator from 2009-15 and special teams coordinator in 2015, after beginning his coaching career as an administrative assistant with the Utes in 2006.


“Utah Football and Utah Athletics have always been home to me and my family, and I am honored to receive this distinction,” Scalley said. “I want to thank President Randall, Coach Whittingham and Mark Harlan for the trust they have shown in me, and I remain committed to my continued growth as a coach and person, and as a member of the amazing University of Utah community. Our staff is excited to start a new era of Utah Football in the Big 12 this fall under Coach Whittingham and to continue the traditions that have become a part of our proud history.”
Known as one of the brightest defensive minds in the business, Scalley has led the Utes to finishes in the top-half of the Pac-12 in total defense seven times, ranking second nationally and first in the league in 2019. He has directed the Pac-12’s top rushing defense five times in the last eight years, including top-five national rankings in 2018, 2019 and 2023. Utah has finished at the top of the conference in sacks and tackles for loss three times under Scalley, most recently in back-to-back seasons (2021, 2022). The team also finished the 2018 season ranked 11th nationally and first in the Pac-12 in sacks.

Scalley, Whittingham, and the Utes will open up their 2024 season against Southern Utah on Thursday, August 29, at 8:00 p.m. CT on ESPN+.

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