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UNLV offensive coordinator Cotton waiting for heart transplant, won’t coach in 2019

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L.E. Baskow

UNLV offensive coordinator Barney Cotton smiles at his players early in their first football team practice of the regular season on Friday, August 7, 2015.

Barney Cotton, the UNLV football team’s offensive coordinator the past four seasons, is on a waiting list for a heart transplant in Omaha, Neb., and won’t coach on the field this season, the university announced today.

Garin Justice, the run-game offensive coordinator, has been elevated to offensive coordinator and will handle play-calling duties.

Cotton, 62, was one of new Rebels head coach Tony Sanchez’s first hires in 2014, coming to Las Vegas after eight years at Nebraska, where he was briefly the interim head coach.

Sanchez, coming from the high school ranks, pegged the experienced Cotton to be his right-hand man.

“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 in a statement. “He is a tremendous coach, teacher, person and a great friend.”

Cotton built a dominant running game at UNLV, ranking in the top 20 nationally the past three seasons. That attack was powered by running back Lexington Thomas, who shattered school records for career rushing touchdowns and 100-yard rushing games. Cotton was also the tight ends coach.

Sanchez seems confident in Justice continuing the high-powered attack.

Justice came to UNLV in 2018 from Florida Atlantic, having also been a collegiate head coach from 2011-15 at Division II Concord University in West Virginia, where he posted a 40-17 record.

“Garin moving into a new role will make for a smooth transition for us,” Sanchez said. “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.”

The university didn’t release further information about Cotton’s health. A tight ends coach will be hired next month to complete the coaching staff.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21