Rick George Leads Colorado’s Focus on the Health and Well-Being of Student-Athletes

“As we developed our three-year goals for our strategic plan, it became clear to me we were falling short in the mental health area of our athletes. That led to some changes on how we approach the total wellness of our student-athletes.”

Colorado Athletic Director Rick George is constantly looking for ways to improve. A major area where his depart is leading the way is the mental health and well being of his athletes.

“We brought on another clinical psychologist, then a lot of this was timing with Buffs4Life Foundation, they wanted to partner with us.”

Sean Tufts, a former NFL linebacker and Colorado player, is the new president of the Buffs4Life Foundation, a 13-year-old nonprofit originally aimed at helping former Colorado athletes and their families deal with a wide variety of medical problems. A major focus for the group is preventing any more suicides among former CU athletes.

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“Its really grown from there. We’ve educated our staff on mental health issues, we used the UCLA game as a mental health awareness game. It’s really important to us as a University,” explains George. 

The Colorado program that George is championing also addresses anxiety about leaving college life. They are putting a staff together that will form a network of Buffs and donors around the country. The school is working to help student-athletes build their professional network so that they can start their career on the right foot, with the Scripps Leadership and Development Department.

“Not only do we want a great APR, high GPA, and great graduation rate, we also want a high job placement rate. We want our student-athletes to know what industry and opportunities await them.”

George explains that they created a website where companies and athletes can discover each other. The companies can post jobs and the students can post resumes and videos.

“We are in the infancy of that, but we’ve created the website and those initiatives are really coming together. It’s our responsibility to make sure these young people have the practical experience to enter the world after their college career.”

George says his hope is that over the next decade, they will be able to measure the effectiveness of Scripps to show their work is paying off. He’s also measuring the success of his department in other ways. George’s predecessor, Mike Bohn, lead CU through the move to the Pac-12, George says the move has been great for the university.

“We have a large number of alums who live on the west coast, it allows us to go to where our donors live. It’s helped us increase our donations and engagement opportunities.”

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Another piece of that donation puzzle is a winning football team. In December, George hired former Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker to lead the Buffs program. George says Tucker seemed like a great fit from day one.

“Just looking at his background and resume, from day one he intrigued me. He had won three national championships, I was looking for that and someone who would bring a certain toughness, discipline, and accountability to Colorado football.”

George says Tucker was able to handle himself in press conferences and that paired with his natural ability to recruit made him the clear choice. George knows the face of the team is critical to the image the department wants to project. After raising more than $100 million in donations in five years, George seems to be making all the right moves for CU.