For almost four months, Katie Bason sat at home unemployed waiting for a call from a football coach about a job that didn’t exist yet. She turned down a more stable career path in the form of offers from Silicon Valley heavyweights like Google and Apple. She even once appeared as “Orbit,” the mascot for the Martinsville Astros — a creature modeled after their MLB namesake — a lime-green alien with antennae protruding from its head.
Call it an unabashed love of the sport—added to blind faith in a man she’d only known 90 days—but it says optimism in any language.
It’s that kind of attitude that has led to a decade-long relationship with Mike MacIntyre — making her one of his most trusted associates and first hires when he took the job as head coach at FIU.
Raised in tiny Martinsville, Virginia, a town near the Virginia-North Carolina border best known for being the home of the NASCAR Cup Series, Sarah Catherine “Katie” Bason grew up idolizing an older brother who was a star among the locals -Baseball player was prep ranks. The only girl between two boys, Bason was naturally drawn to baseball, as opposed to softball, and her parents encouraged playing as long as the opportunity arose.
“Really, I just wanted to be like my older brother, so I practiced with him for hours,” Bason said. “My parents encouraged me to keep competing until I couldn’t keep up with the boys, and they always thought it would happen, but it never got to that point by the time I got into high school.”
Bason played on the baseball team at Carlisle High in Martinsville for four years, where she excelled as both a pitcher and positional player on the diamond. However, she took her fair share of lumps — or beans along the way — as the lone girl playing among the boys.
“I got yelled at a lot, but over the years I think they realized I wasn’t going to quit and I wanted to stay,” Bason said. “Over time, my teammates got to appreciate my drive and other schools started to respect me, so around my junior year it wasn’t that big of a deal.”
After graduating, Bason enrolled at Wake Forest University. Wanting to remain active in the sport, she took a job as an equipment manager on the men’s basketball team coached by Skip Prosser, who would lead her to a career in the sport.
“Coach Prosser was a high school teacher before he started coaching, and he taught me how to use this profession to the advantage of young people, to prepare them for life,” Bason said.
In addition to her duties as a student and on the basketball team, Bason’s desire to play baseball continued.
She played for the Chicago Storm, a semi-professional women’s baseball team, and received an invitation to try out for the United States U21 women’s national team. After forming the team, she played with the Storm for two seasons – playing in various tournaments overseas and having the distinction of walking the field at sacred Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, NY – home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame .
“Cooperstown (playing) was really exciting and then we traveled to Australia to play a tournament, which honestly was a life-changing experience,” said Bason.
Bason earned her bachelor’s degree in education in 2005 and spent the next half decade teaching at various high schools in the Carolinas before moving crosscountry to California in 2010 with her then-husband. Her career in collegiate athletics took off after she failed to find a teaching position in the area — and was only intended to be temporary.
“Because the state had a budget freeze, it was difficult to find apprenticeships,” Bason said. “I ended up with several job offers in the private sector, but my heart has always been with education and sport. So I emailed every school in the Bay Area about my experiences both teaching and working with student-athletes. One day I received an email from the state of San Jose saying that we have a Learning Specialist role, but it was a temporary role for 60 days. I had no idea what a learning specialist was, but I knew I would take it.”
A few months before Bason was relegated to the Golden State, Mike MacIntyre took his first head coaching job at San Jose State.
He inherited a program that went 2-10 on the field in 2009 and had even more pronounced struggles off the griddle. The NCAA set up SJSU with several scholarship restrictions due to Academic Progress Rate (APR) issues that arose from the Spartans’ problems in graduating student-athletes.
Before trying to rebuild the program on Saturdays, MacIntyre faced the reality that his players had to perform in the classroom for him to have a fighting shot.
“San Jose State had an APR penalty for APR, so we were only able to practice 16 hours a week (20 hours is the normal limit) and we had both a bursary cut and further penalties if we underperformed even further APR fell,” MacIntyre said. “Then there is this young lady, Katie Bason, who has done a phenomenal job with the children. So at least I think I got that covered and one day she comes into my office and tells me today is her last day because she’s just filling in for someone else on maternity leave.”
The impression MacIntyre made in just three months was enough for him to personally approach Tom Bowen, then San Jose State athletic director, to persuade Bason to remain in office.
However, while MacIntyre was making his appeal to supervisors, Bason was out of a job – once again. Despite job offers from Google and Apple, Bason maintained her trust in the coach, whom she had only recently met, with some trepidation.
“I didn’t really think it would happen, even to the point that I applied for other jobs, but I ended up turning them down because Mac would keep in touch and ask me not to take another job.” , Bason said .
MacIntyre recalled meeting Bowen and emphasizing that Bason had to be part of the program.
“I went across the street to[Bowen’s]office and told him that if we don’t want to have an APR penalty, we have to hire her because she’s phenomenal,” MacIntyre said. “I told him we had to do it. So they created a position and interviewed them throughout the process and hired them and we went from the worst APR in our league to the best and the rest is history.”
History is a mildly succinct way of summarizing what would morph into a relationship that would last over the next 12 years.
When MacIntyre got hired in Colorado, he arranged for Bason to play a role with the Buffaloes. After MacIntyre’s tenure at Boulder ended, he took on the role of defense coordinator at Ole Miss — and Bason earned a role in player development. She stayed with the Rebels for two seasons during MacIntyre’s tenure as defensive coordinator at Memphis, and when he took the job at FIU, it was unsurprising that one of the first calls he made was for Bason.
“She was constantly evolving, which is why I wanted her to be our chief of staff, which is an expanded role from her previous ones,” MacIntyre said.
At 39, Bason feels more than ready for a new challenge, especially given her nearly two decades of education and over a decade of work in collegiate athletics.
“I’ve worked in academia, I’ve worked in recruitment, I’ve worked in operations, I’ve worked in player development, so I feel like at this point in my career I’m ready to do a job that it allows me to officially touch all of these things at once,” Bason said.
As she thrives in her new role with the Panthers, the first-time South Florida resident had a chance to learn some of the ins and outs of the area.
“I already love living in Miami and the culture is like nothing I’ve ever experienced, plus I learned Spanish through my time as the mascot (Orbit) of the Martinsville Astros,” said Bason. Although I will say that driving is an experience – it’s like playing a game of Frogger and I’ve learned that your turn signal is actually called a ‘weak signal’ and you get honked at often.”
For MacIntyre, he summarizes why Bason is a central part of his rebuilding effort with the Panthers.
“Katie has an incredibly caring heart but she is also very competitive and being an athlete herself she can really relate to them and vice versa. “She looks huge and we wouldn’t have had the success we had at San Jose State or Colorado if it wasn’t for Katie Bason.”