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UNLV announced Wednesday that former head coach and longtime NFL assistant coach Wayne Nunnely died. He was 68.
Nunnely was just the fifth Black head coach at the top level of college football and the only former UNLV player to be the team's head coach. He transferred to UNLV after playing at the junior college level and got into coaching just four seasons after his final season at UNLV in 1972.
"We are saddened to learn of the passing of former head coach Wayne Nunnely," said UNLV athletic director Disree Reed-Francois said in a statement. "He was a role model as our only football alumnus to later become head coach and was truly blessed to have touched so many lives while teaching the sport he loved for nearly four decades."
Nunnely was named UNLV's interim head coach in the spring of 1986, just seven years after Willie Jeffries became the first Black coach at the top level of college football. Nunnely was soon named the team's permanent head coach and coached for four seasons with the Rebels. UNLV was 19-25 in his tenure and the team went 6-5 in his first season.
In 1988, Nunnely's UNLV team played Ohio. The Bobcats were coached by Cleve Bryant and the game was the first at the FBS level with Black head coaches on both sidelines. Bryant, who was hired in 1985, was the third Black head coach in FBS after Jeffries and longtime NFL coach Dennis Green.
After working in a non-coaching capacity for UNLV for a year after his four seasons as the team's coach, Nunnely was an assistant coach at both UCLA and USC before moving to the NFL for 16 seasons as a defensive line coach. Nunnely worked for the New Orleans Saints in 1995 and 1996 before coaching for the Chargers from 1997-2008. He spent the 2009-11 seasons with the Denver Broncos before retiring from coaching.
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