UNLV OC Barney Cotton to miss 2019 season while awaiting heart transplant


Kurt Palandech. Barney Cotton. UNLV football during a game against Wyoming at Sam Boyd Stadium on November 12, 2016. UNLV won 69-66 in the third overtime period. (R. Marsh Starks / UNLV Photo Services)

LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) – Longtime college football coach Barney Cotton, who has served as UNLV’s offensive coordinator and tight ends coach since 2015, will not coach on the field this season because of health reasons, head coach Tony Sanchez announced Thursday. Cotton is currently in Omaha, Nebraska, while on the waiting list to receive a heart transplant.

Second-year run game offensive coordinator Garin Justice will now serve as offensive coordinator and call the plays this fall for the Rebels while continuing to oversee the offensive line.

Garin Justice Football Coach Head Shot April 04, 2018 (Amanda Keating/UNLV creative services)

Also, a new tight ends coach will be hired before the team reports for camp August 1.

“Barney has unfortunately been forced to be away from football and his Rebel family and we are all keeping him in our thoughts and prayers,” Sanchez said. “He is a tremendous coach, teacher, person and a great friend.”

Cotton came to UNLV after serving as interim head coach at Nebraska to close the 2014 season. He led the Huskers into the Holiday Bowl after having spent his eighth overall season on the Nebraska staff as associate head coach, run game coordinator and TE/OL coach. After joining Sanchez at UNLV, he quickly built a rushing attack that ranked among the nation’s top 20 the last three seasons. In addition, former running back Lexington Thomas broke multiple long-standing school records, including rushing touchdowns in a career (40) and 100-yard rushing games (18). His total of 3,551 career rushing yards ranks second among all Rebels and eighth in Mountain West history.

Justice joined UNLV in 2018 after spending the previous two seasons helping build the FAU program. Previous to joining the Owls he spent five of his seven seasons at Division II Concord University in West Virginia as head coach, compiling a 40-17 overall mark with the Mountain Lions from 2011-15. The former standout West Virginia offensive lineman started his coaching career as a student assistant and then a graduate assistant at his alma mater. He then spent two years as an offensive graduate student at Florida State, where he earned his master’s degree in 2008.

“Garin moving into a new role will make for a smooth transition for us,” said Sanchez. “He’s a former head coach who did a lot of good things here in his first year and we have full confidence that he will do a great job helping us move forward as a coordinator.”

UNLV opens its season at home August 31 vs. Southern Utah.

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