UNLV: Rebels assistant Cotton waiting for heart transplant

LAS VEGAS (AP) — UNLV offensive coordinator Barney Cotton is awaiting a heart transplant and will not coach on the field this season.

Rebels coach Tony Sanchez said Thursday in a news release from the school that the 62-year-old Cotton is in Omaha, Nebraska, and on a waiting list to receive a heart. Cotton is an Omaha native and former University of Nebraska player and assistant coach. He served as interim head coach for the Cornhuskers in 2014 after Bo Pelini was fired at the end of the regular season.

Cotton joined Sanchez’s staff in 2015 as tight ends coach and offensive coordinator.

“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.”

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Cotton was an all-Big Eight defensive lineman for Nebraska in 1978 and played three seasons in the NFL with Cincinnati and the St. Louis Cardinals. He returned to Nebraska as offensive coordinator in 2003, Frank Solich’s last season as head coach of the Huskers. Cotton rejoined Nebraska under Pelini in 2008.

Sanchez said offensive line coach and run game coordinator Garin Justice will replace Cotton as offensive coordinator and primary play caller. A new tight ends coach will be hired before the team reports to camp Aug. 1.

Justice is in his second season with UNLV. He was head coach at Division II Concordia in West Virginia from 2011-15 and an assistant at FAU for two years before joining the Rebels.

“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, coming off a 4-8 season — its fourth straight losing season under Sanchez — opens 2019 against Southern Utah on Aug. 31.

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