When he was hired as the head football coach at Colorado in December of 2012, Mike MacIntyre made it a priority to bring Katie Bason with him as football academic coordinator.
Bason had worked for two years with MacIntyre at San Jose State before following him to Boulder. Over the past six years, she made a difference in the lives of many CU football players and became somewhat of a cult hero to Buff Nation, as she is engaging on social media and was ever-present around the football program.
When Bason announced on Jan. 2 that she was leaving CU — about six weeks after MacIntyre was fired — it left many wondering about the future of the football academic program. The reality, however, is that while the face of Colorado football academics is gone, the foundation of the department is still very much intact.
"I think we've got a great foundation," said Kris Livingston, who has been the director of the Herbst Academic Center (HAC) for nearly 12 years and through several coaching changes. "Every time we bring in a new football coach, it's an opportunity to teach the coaches how we do things, and how we've done things works. The team, we hold them accountable, we're helping them, we're teaching them. We're teaching them about academic integrity, and we have a staff that's all-in. We have a very passionate staff."
For the past six years, Bason has been the one member of the HAC staff whose passion has been in the spotlight, in part because of what MacIntyre wanted her to do. Livingston and her staff had already had a system in place, but had to adjust when MacIntyre was hired.
"Because of their relationship, he helped to create her job here how he wanted it," Livingston said.
MacIntyre leaned primarily on Bason for all things dealing with academics — and beyond. Bason spent so much time with the players and was so beloved that she really went beyond what the HAC staff is trained to do. She also took on more responsibility.
For years, the HAC has placed the football players in academic tiers.
In Tier 1 is new students or those who are struggling academically, and thus, the group that needs the most attention; Tier 2 is the group that is developing good time management and study habits; and Tier 3 is the group that is excelling and doesn't need much work with the HAC staff.
The HAC has three academic coordinators, and prior to MacIntyre's arrival, each of the coordinators was assigned football players based on their position group. That spread the Tier 1 football players fairly evenly among the three coordinators.
Under MacIntyre, however, Bason took on all of the Tier 1 players. As they progressed to Tier 2 or Tier 3, they would start working with other coordinators. Several players, however, got to know Bason so well that they wanted to stay with her. So, Bason worked with a large number of players on the team.
Livingston said Bason was "really overworked" at CU, but praised her for the job she did with the Buffs.
"It could have been a nightmare if Katie had not been the person that Katie is," Livingston said. "I respect her and she was full of integrity. She's great. She had great energy. We had a direct line (of communication) and had a great relationship."
Once MacIntyre was fired, however, Livingston saw an opportunity to readjust. The HAC is now back to having academic coordinators work with players based on position group.
Chris Howlett and Medford Moorer are still on the staff as coordinators, while Cory Harbor, who has worked with track and cross country athletes, will now work with football players, as well. Harbor and Moorer both played college football, with Moorer playing at CU. (All of the coordinators work with non-football athletes, as well).
In addition to Livingston and the three coordinators, the HAC has a staff of learning specialists, academic mentors, learning facilitators, tutors and study hall monitors.
"We have all the resources in the world to help them be successful," Livingston said. "You can't work up here and not be all-in. We're a customer service unit; we're people focused; we have a passion for the young people we work with and we believe in the power of education. Those are some of the pillars that we work with every single day."
While changes are being made and the HAC did lose its most well-known figure, the mission of supporting the student-athletes has not changed, and Livingston said she's excited for the future, especially after a "fantastic" nearly three-hour initial meeting with the HAC staff and new head football coach Mel Tucker.
"I think we all walked about of there thinking, 'OK, this is going to be great,'" Livingston said. "I think we're really prepared to have another successful year."