LAS VEGAS (FOX5) – The University of Nevada, Las Vegas football program mourns the loss of former player and head coach Wayne Nunnely, who died at the age of 68.
We are saddened by the passing of former head coach Wayne Nunnely, said UNLV Athletics Director Desiree Reed-Francois. He was a role model as our only football alumnus who later became head coach and he was truly blessed to have touched so many lives teaching the sport he loved for nearly four decades.
Nunnely had a rich legacy of attending and playing with UNLV. He is the only player in the history of the football program to become a rebel head coach.
The former rebel fullback transferred to UNLV in 1972 after playing junior college football in California. He began coaching at UNLV as a graduate assistant in 1976 after serving as a high school coach at Valley High School.
Nunnely continued her coaching on the West Coast, spending time at Cal Poly Pomona (1977-78), Cal State Fullerton (1979) and Pacific (1980-81). He returned to Las Vegas and coached running backs in 1982.
After several years as the rebel running back coach, Nunnely got the interim job as head coach in 1986. When UNLV gave the interim title to Nunnely, he became the first black head coach on the West Coast and the fifth in the history of the United States. NCAA Division One.
As leader of the rebels’ football program, Nunnely led UNLV to a 17-7 victory over Wisconsin in front of a packed Sam Boyd Stadium. The win at one of the Big Ten’s most notable football shows was enough to land Nunnely full-time head coach. In addition to the upset victory over the Badgers, Nunnely coached the legendary Icky Woods back to the stormy 1987 title that reached 1,658 meters.
Nunnley was apart from another historic moment in 1988 when the rebels played the University of Ohio. That match pinned two Black Head coaches against each other at the FBS level for the first time.
Barriers were broken with Nunnely until 1989, when he stopped coaching the rebels. He set a record of 19-25 during his four-year stint on the sidelines.
After a brief stint as UNLV’s director of minority student affairs, Nunnely felt the urge to coach again. He stayed on the West Coast and received coaching at the Pac-12 conference in the early 1990s.
Nunnely’s coaching career took him to the National Football League. He spent time with Denver Broncos as their defensive line coach, the then San Diego Charges and New Orleans Saints.
After 36 years of wandering along the professional and collegiate sidelines, Nunnely hung up his whistle.
Coaching for 36 years has been an absolute dream for me, said Nunnely when he retired and before becoming a regular visitor to the UNLV campus. I am so grateful for all the opportunities I have been given to have a positive impact on others through the game of football.
Wayne Nunnley is survived by his wife Velda, three sons, Steve, Channing, Aaron and daughter Amber.
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