Pitt senior basketball player Mike Cook has been denied a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA, the university announced.
Cook had petitioned the NCAA for a medical redshirt after tearing the ACL in his left knee in a Dec. 20 game against Duke. The NCAA denied Cook on two earlier occasions this summer and his third and final appeal was rejected today.
According to NCAA rules, a player is not eligible for a medical redshirt if he plays in 30 percent or more of his team's games. Cook played in 11 of 37 games, which seemingly would qualify him at 29.7 percent. However, the NCAA does not count NCAA tournament games and only counts one conference tournament game. So in the NCAA's eyes, Cook played in 11 of 32 games, or 34.3 percent.
"Situations like this are hard to take when you know how dedicated Mike's life has been to playing basketball," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said in a statement. "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."
The NCAA had to make a decision this week because classes begin Monday at Pitt. Cook graduated in the spring and would have needed to be enrolled in graduate courses if he had been allowed to play this season.
"We were hopeful that Mike would be granted a sixth year of eligibility and it is unfortunate that the request has been denied," Pitt athletic 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."
Cook, the starting small forward since the 2006-07 season, did not have high hopes for a positive outcome. In an interview last month, Cook sounded ready to move on.
"As long as I can play basketball, that's the most important thing to me," he said. "If it's not here, then I have to work for it to be somewhere else."
Cook, a Philadelphia native, transferred to Pitt in 2005. In the '06-07 season, Cook started all 37 games and averaged 10.5 points per game. He started the first 11 games of last season before getting injured.