SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah has designated longtime defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley as the “head coach in waiting” who will take over whenever Kyle Whittingham steps down.

Athletic director Mark Harlan announced the succession plan on Monday. Scalley is entering his 17th year on Whittingham’s Utah staff and his ninth season as defensive coordinator.

“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,” Harland said in a statement. “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 first-hand 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.”

Whittingham, 64, is entering his 20th season as Utah’s head coach as the Utes move from the Pac-12 to the Big 12. He owns a 162-79 record and holds the school record for career coaching victories.

“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,” Whittingham said in a statement. “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 played defensive back at Utah from 2001-04 and was the Mountain West Conference’s co-defensive player of the year as a senior while helping the Utes go unbeaten. He became an administrative assistant for Utah in 2006 and joined Whittingham’s staff on a full-time basis in 2008.

He was Utah’s recruiting coordinator from 2009-15 and special teams coordinator in 2015.

“Utah football and Utah athletics have always been home to me and my family, and I am honored to receive this distinction,” Scalley said.

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