Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon clearly was disappointed with the news about senior forward Mike Cook.
"Situations like this are hard to take when you know how dedicated Mike's life has been to playing basketball,'' Dixon said. "Over the last three years, Mike has contributed significantly to our success both on and off the floor and has been an important member of our basketball family.
"When I asked Mike why he wanted to come to Pitt, he simply said he 'wanted to win.' And he has won, going 40-8 as a starter. He has grown into a leader and has become an outstanding example for the younger players in our program. Mike has earned his degree and will have the opportunity to continue his career professionally when he returns to the floor.''
In order to be considered for a sixth-year extension, Cook would have needed to obtain a medical hardship waiver for his participation during the 2007-08 year. NCAA rules state that to be eligible for a medical hardship, a student-athlete must participate in no more than 30 percent of the team's regular season games in order to guarantee an extra year of athletic eligibility.
Even though Pitt played 37 total games including six postseason games, NCAA rules only allow postseason contests to be counted as one game when determining total number of games played. Since Cook played in 34 percent of Pitt's games, Pitt filed an appeal with the NCAA to grant him an additional season of competition, as well as a sixth year after the hardship waiver was denied by the conference. The appeal was denied by the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee, comprised of faculty members and conference and athletic administrators.
"We were hopeful that Mike would be granted a sixth year of eligibility, and it is unfortunate that the request has been denied,'' Pitt Athletics Director Steve Pederson said. "Our hearts went out to Mike when he suffered the injury against Duke and we feel for him now.
"Mike is an impressive young man with a bright future and we wish him nothing but the best. He will always be an important part of the Panther family.''
Last year, Cook played in Pitt's first 11 games prior to suffering a serious knee injury during overtime of a 65-64 victory against Duke on December 20 at Madison Square Garden. Junior point guard Levance Fields hit a step-back game-winning 3-pointer in overtime and dedicated the win to Cook, his best friend.
Two days later, Cook underwent surgery to correct a torn anterior cruciate ligament and medial and lateral meniscial tear. As Pitt's starting small forward in 2007-08, Cook averaged 10.4 points, 2.8 rebounds per game and reached double figure scoring in seven contests. Prior to the injury, he started 48 consecutive games at Pitt.
Over his combined five-year collegiate career, Cook scored 1,204 points, grabbed 362 rebounds and dished out 293 assists in 103 career games and 87 starts. A Philadelphia native, Cook transferred to Pitt from East Carolina following the 2004-05 academic year. He sat out the 2005-06 campaign due to NCAA transfer rules.
In two seasons at East Carolina (2003-05), Cook totaled 41 double figure scoring games, led the Pirates in scoring as a sophomore (15.0 ppg.) and earned Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors.
Cook graduated from Pitt this spring with a communications degree and has spent the summer rehabbing his injury and preparing to action. The university will provide Cook an opportunity to remain in Pittsburgh as he takes additional classes and continues his rehabilitation.
Pitt returns three starters, each of its top three scorers and seven of its top-10 letterwinners to a team that captured the 2008 Big East Tournament title, finished 27-10 overall and earned its seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Pitt's Media Relations Department contributed to this story.