SHU’s Executive Director of Athletics to Retire

News Story: November 28, 2012

Don Cook, Sacred Heart University’s executive director of Athletics for the past 20 years, has announced that he will retire, effective July 1, 2013.

“I have been truly blessed to have been in the same industry my entire career,” Cook said. “I couldn’t have imagined in April 1966, my first year of college coaching, that it would be the first of 46-plus years in the same profession.”

Cook joined Sacred Heart in 1992 after leading the athletics programs at the University of Hartford and at his alma mater, Fairfield University. While at Fairfield University, he captained a highly regarded department that is still known for its successes, particularly in the sport of men’s basketball. At the University of Hartford, his work contributed to that institution’s transition from the ranks of NCAA Division II to Division I, including the development of a partnership with the Hartford Civic Center to host men’s basketball games coupled with a concert headlined by a national entertainer.  This promotional concept was both innovative and creative and later emulated by other Division I institutions nationwide.

Cook, who committed his entire career to coaching and administration of intercollegiate athletics, has been a leader among his NCAA peers and has filled numerous leadership positions and responsibilities regionally and nationally.  A co-founder and first president of the well-respected Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), he also served as president of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC), has played a significant role as a member of numerous NCAA councils and committees, and closer to home, has been a leading administrator in the Northeast Conference (NEC) and the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA).

“I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to work side-by-side with Don Cook over the last three years,” said Northeast Conference Commissioner Noreen Morris. “He is one of the most thoughtful, supportive and positive people I have ever known.  Don has been a tremendous mentor for thousands of student-athletes, hundreds of athletic administrators and one very thankful commissioner.  Don’s sharp humor, inspirational writing and constant pursuit to ‘do the right thing’ will be sorely missed.  Thank you Don for all that you’ve contributed to collegiate athletics and the Northeast Conference.  I’m proud to call you a colleague and friend!”

Added AHA Commissioner Bob DeGregorio, “Don Cook was one of the founding fathers of Atlantic hockey and has been a positive guiding force while serving as one of its directors for the last 10 years. He has been a tremendous supporter of Division I ice hockey, has been instrumental in the growth of Atlantic hockey, and his leadership and professionalism will be missed. I have had both a professional and personal friendship with Don for over 40 years, and he will be deeply missed.”

While at Sacred Heart, Cook has contributed his expertise with contributions towards the design of the University’s William H. Pitt Center and the overall expansion of the University’s intercollegiate athletics program and guided Sacred Heart through the political and technical aspects of transitioning from Division II to Division I. In 2007, he successfully steered the University through its first NCAA Division I certification, a process very similar to attaining NEASC certification. During each of the past five years, SHU’s athletic department has won the NEC’s Commissioner Cup, which recognizes overall program excellence, and the first two NEC Building Communities awards for commitment to community service. However, Cook may be most proud of the SHU student-athletes’ highest-ever GPA of 3.23 this past spring, which caps off a decade of student-athlete GPAs that have met or exceeded 3.0. 

“Don’s tireless focus on the pursuit of academic excellence throughout the department has not only benefited our institutional reputation in Division I but, more importantly, our students,” said Jim Barquinero, senior vice president of Student Affairs and Athletics. “Don will be greatly missed at Sacred Heart, but we wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life.”

“My greatest blessing was that intercollegiate athletics brought me in contact with many wonderful people, most especially those I worked with at Fairfield University, the University of Hartford and, more recently, Sacred Heart University. Each place had its own special character, bringing into my life mentors and colleagues who taught me more than I could have ever have imagined had I chosen another profession. Thankfully, these very same people blessed me with a special kind of friendship – a friendship I couldn’t replicate if I lived another 100 years. The competitions, as important as they were at times, pale in my memory compared to the wonderful people I met who shared a chapter of their lives with me. They showed me how to live. I’ll never be able to repay them,” Cook said.