On the wall in Katie Bason’s office hangs a glossy, 11-by-17 photo of Colorado receiver Kabion Ento.
“I told him he can autograph it if he gets a 3.0 this summer,” said Bason, the director of football academics at CU. “And he’s taking that very seriously.”
It’s a big deal for CU football players to be featured on the walls in Bason’s office. Dozens of signed pictures, newspaper clippings and even exams and essays serve not only decorations in her office, located in the Dal Ward Center, but as rewards and reminders for the hard work put in by the Buffs in the classroom over the years.
“They like coming in there and seeing themselves on the wall,” Bason said. “I think it creates a neat environment for them.”
Yeah, it makes the room look a little cluttered, but Bason likes it.
“I do, because they like it, and it’s comfortable for them,” she said. “It needs to be a place where they want to be.”
CU’s emphasis on academics with its football players has made Bason’s office like a second home to many of the Buffs.
Coming off a 10-4 season that included the Pac-12 South title, the Buffs are finally enjoying success on the football field. Equally important to the program is the success that the players enjoy in the classroom.
“For (head coach Mike MacIntyre), it’s not just about football,” Bason said. “We’re going to win a lot of games, but in doing so, we’re going to make sure that we’re creating young men who have their degree who, once football is over, they’ll be able to go out and have an awesome career, something they’re passion about.”
Associate athletic director Kris Livingston oversees academics for all of CU’s student-athletes, while Bason is the backbone of academics for the football team. Along with academic coordinators Chris Howlett and Medford Moorer, Bason and the Buffs have a program designed to set the players up for a bright future.
Bason and MacIntyre have worked together for the past seven years, going back to MacIntyre’s three seasons as the head coach at San Jose State (2010-12). It didn’t take long for MacIntyre to realize that his vision for academics was matched by Bason.
“All our academic staff does great, but she just goes beyond the call of duty,” MacIntyre said. “The players do love her. She’s tough on them, she works them, she helps them.”
During MacIntyre’s interview process at CU after the 2012 season, president Bruce Benson and chancellor Phil DiStefano asked MacIntyre what they could do to get him to Boulder.
“The first thing I said is, ‘I have to hire Katie Bason to come as my football academic coordinator,'” MacIntyre said. “They said, ‘You’re the first coach to ever say that to us.'”
With that, Bason followed MacIntyre to Boulder and began making a big impact on the Buffs.
Former CU cornerback Ken Crawley, now with the New Orleans Saints, worked with Bason throughout his final three years in Boulder, helping him grow exponentially as a student.
“Katie’s awesome,” Crawley said. “She helped me excel, her and (learning specialist Michele Brannigan). They both played a big part in helping me with academics, pushing me. They were always calling me, texting me and encouraging me. They were very helpful.”
Bason is quick to point out that CU’s academic program was already “awesome” when MacIntyre and his staff arrived, but they have strived to enhance it since then.
It all starts with the summer bridge program for incoming freshmen. That’s an intensive six weeks where the newcomers learn all aspects of becoming college students — how to take notes, write a paper for the college level, study for an exam and interact with professors and fellow students.
“The foundation really is set in that summer before their freshman year, when we teach them what we expect of them as a CU Buff,” Bason said.
True freshman Dante Sparaco enrolled in January and didn’t go through the summer program, but said CU’s academic program has eased his transition to college.
“I’m in here almost every day, as much as I can,” Sparaco said near the end of the spring semester. “She’s a great help with anything you need. You come in with any subject, any problem and she’s either going to help you with it or she’s going to find someone who can help you with it. It’s great knowing you have a safety net there.”
Bason works with all the incoming freshmen, and as the players get older, most work with Howlett and Moorer. There are some players, such as Crawley and former safety Tedric Thompson, who stayed with Bason during their entire careers, out of comfort.
The ultimate goal is for the players to be as self-sufficient as possible as they get older.
“We’re going to provide them with all of the tools so they can do it on their own,” she said.
Some players rarely visit Bason’s office in their later years as Buffs, while others are there frequently.
“My office is always packed with guys coming in saying, ‘I’ve got a paper due tomorrow, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got an exam tomorrow and I need you to help me study,'” Bason said. “They know that any time of day they can call me or come to my office and I’ll help them prepare.”
Bason has learned a lot about a lot of subjects over the years, but the real key is connecting with players. That’s where, as MacIntyre said, Bason goes above and beyond, because for her, this job is more than just about football or getting good grades.
“It goes far beyond academics for me,” she said. “It’s really about their well being and them knowing they have somebody in their corner and I’m not going to let them get away with anything. They trust me and believe I’m going to be there for them, no matter what.”
Players will FaceTime her from the classroom when they’re excited about a grade they got on a test or paper. They’ll give her a hug on the sidelines after a big play in a game.
When safety Ryan Moeller was in a moped accident during the 2015 season, Bason was running on a treadmill at the gym when she got a call from the ambulance to let her know Moeller was on his way to the hospital.
“He knew I’d be there immediately,” she said.
Whether it’s supporting the Buffs through trials, helping them succeed in the classroom or celebrating with them on game day or at graduation, Bason views her job at CU as a labor of love. It’s why she doesn’t mind the “clutter” on her walls.
“I feel like the luckiest person in the world, because I don’t think many people get to do truly what they love,” she said.
“It’s a lifestyle for me; it’s not a job. I would not have it any other way.”