The Northeast Conference Hall of Fame has announced members of its third induction class: Fairleigh Dickinson men's basketball player Desi Wilson, Mount St. Mary's women's basketball player Vanessa Blair and longtime Sacred Heart Executive Director of Athletics Don Cook.
A fixture for the last 50 years on the collegiate athletic scene in the state of Connecticut, Don Cook has not only become synonymous with Sacred Heart University, but he is also deeply rooted in Northeast Conference history.
Upon Cook's arrival as athletics director at Sacred Heart in 1992, the university began a 20-year period of growth under his leadership. During his tenure, Sacred Heart expanded its intercollegiate athletic program from 12 to 31 varsity sports and constructed several new facilities, including the $17.5 million William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center, which was completed in 1997. He led the program's move to Division I status, which began in 1999 as a full member of the NEC.
With Cook at the helm, the Sacred Heart athletic program has set a standard of excellence in the NEC, winning the past five Brenda Weare Commissioner's Cups to tie the league record for consecutive Cup wins. The Pioneers have also won six consecutive Joan Martin Women's Commissioner's Cup awards, extending their own league record. Likewise, SHU has won the NEC's Building Communities Award in each of its first two years of existence.
Cook was a recent recipient of the Sacred Heart Administrator of the Year Award.
He has taken on numerous roles within the league's governance structure, including chair of the NEC Athletic Director's Committee from 2010-12. He also served on the NEC Strategic Planning Committee, NEC Membership Committee and was chair of the NEC Baseball Committee.
He plans to retire from Sacred Heart after this school year.
Prior to his arrival at Sacred Heart, Cook was a co-founder and the first president of the MAAC, and also served as president of the ECAC. On a national scale, he has been a member of the NCAA Council, and served on the NCAA Division I-A and I-AA Football Issues Committee.
Cook also served as athletics director at Fairfield (1971-86) and Hartford (1986-92). In addition, he directed the Fairfield baseball program for 19 years, producing 15 pro players during that time.
He is a member of the Fairfield Alumni Association's Athletic Hall of Fame, the highest athletic honor at the University, for his accomplishments as an athlete, coach and administrator.
"It's a bittersweet moment for the entire NEC family," said Noreen Morris, NEC commissioner. "With this induction we are given the opportunity to celebrate Don's amazing career and the incredible impact he's had on the Northeast Conference; however, we're also forced to say goodbye to one of the all-time great athletic administrators as Don enjoys a well-earned move into retirement. Personally, I cannot put into words what Don Cook has meant to me over the last three years. He will be missed greatly, not only for his inspired approach to providing the Sacred Heart student-athletes and coaches with remarkable opportunities but more so for his positive outlook on life and his true friendship."