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August 18, 2011Redshirt sophomore cornerback E.J. Banks will eligible to play this season, Todd Graham announced on Wednesday. Banks transferred from Notre Dame but received a waiver from the NCAA that granted him eligibility.
"EJ got his waiver, so he's immediately eligible," Graham said. "We haven't repped him a lot because we didn't know if he was going to be eligible or not. We're excited about him getting the opportunity to be eligible."
"It was really a shot in the dark, because I didn't know what to expect and the NCAA has a lot of rules that I'm not aware of," Banks said on Wednesday. "I just did everything I needed to do as far as compliance and I put it in their hands."
NCAA rules stipulate that student-athletes who transfer from one FBS school to another must sit out for one year; such is the case with the other transfers who joined Pitt this summer, Cullen Christian, Ray Vinopal, Brendon Felder, and Tom Ricketts.
But Banks received a special exception because of the reason he left Notre Dame for Pitt.
"He had a hardship with his family where he was having to be one of the primary caregivers to one of his immediate family members," Graham said. "They granted the waiver based on that."
"Last fall I found out that my mom was sick, and it was hard for me to be away," Banks said. "She didn't have any way to get around and she had to take off work, so there was a lot of things happening with my family and it was a tough situation for me."
Banks was a three-star recruit in the class of 2009 who signed with Notre Dame. A standout athlete for Montour, he was ranked the No. 13 prospect in the state of Pennsylvania. He left South Bend last winter after learning of his mother's illness.
Banks did not attend school in the spring, but enrolled at Pitt for the summer session before he had even talked to the coaches about joining the football team. Eventually he made contact with the coaching staff and joined the team over the summer as a walk-on. He still currently holds that status, although Pitt does have several available open scholarship spots.
"I'm excited; I can't wait," he said. "That's all I've been waiting for, to play college ball. Especially because I was injured coming out of high school and I never really got my shot. So I want to take advantage of it.
"I'm not even sure how many years I have left to play; I just know that I'm eligible to play this year."
Banks tore his ACL in the final game of his high school career, leading to a redshirt in his freshman season at Notre Dame. He is currently a redshirt sophomore at Pitt and he will have three years to play with the Panthers.