One of the SEC’s Finest
By Matthew Osborne
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While the common fan focuses on coaches and players, people like Charles Bloom help enhance the college football experience for the masses.
If you take a step back and analyze what the SEC has been able to accomplish on the gridiron in the past six seasons, it really is quite impressive.
Amazingly, a team from the SEC has won the BCS national championship each of the last six seasons. Perhaps more impressively, those six championships have been won by four different programs: Alabama, Auburn, Florida and LSU.
In a sport where the pecking order amongst the ranks of the elite is almost constantly shifting, it is astonishing to think that a single conference has put together such an impressive extended run of dominance.
“We have been very fortunate in some years, where the ball has been bounced our way and we’ve had the ability to play for those championships,” SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said of the conference’s current string of national titles. “You can’t win six in a row without being great, but I think some of that is luck and matchups. There are various ways to measure the success of a conference, and one of the things that we pride ourselves on is the depth of the quality. We’ve had four teams win national championships during that period, as well as seasons where we’ve had multiple teams in bowl games and multiple teams finish ranked in the top 10.”
If anyone is at liberty to speak about the success of the Southeastern Conference, it would certainly be Charles Bloom.
Having ties to the SEC dating back to his days as an undergraduate student at the University of South Carolina, Bloom has served in the conference offices since 1995. In his time as the SEC’s associate commissioner, he has been influential in helping architect a great deal of college football’s infrastructure, including aiding in the development of the BCS prior to the turn of the century.
“My involvement with the BCS started in the development back in the late-90’s with Commissioner [Roy] Kramer,” Bloom said. “When Commissioner Kramer was able to develop the BCS, he brought me in on some of the conference calls and everyone was talking about having this format that gave us the ability to have a one-two championship game, which was unprecedented in college football. The question was how we were going to select those teams. Finally, after one of the calls, I went to the commissioner and I said that we could probably develop something here that would help the situation. Between him and myself, we worked on the basic format of the initial BCS standings and, from that, we did 10 years of research going backwards. We tweaked it a little bit, and in 1998 we developed the BCS standings, and I have been involved with the BCS ever since as someone who has helped with the revisions of the standings.”
Despite his heavy involvement with the BCS system, Bloom is keenly aware of the fact that many signs are pointing towards the introduction of a playoff format for college football in the near future.
While you might think that an individual with a sentimental connection to the BCS would clearly be in favor of keeping the current system status quo, Bloom says that he will fully support whatever system emerges as the means for deciding a national champion in the years to come.
“Well, I’m going to say that I am going to support whatever is developed,” Bloom commented when asked to share his thoughts on the possibility of a playoff system. “I know that the commissioners and the stakeholders that are involved are putting a lot of time and effort into the research for what is best for college football. I’m for whatever is in the best interest of college football.”
With more than 30 years of career service dedicated to college football, there is no question that Bloom is an individual with a thorough understanding of the inner-workings of the sport. In addition to his role in the development of the BCS, Bloom has also helped develop and implement many of the conference’s groundbreaking media strategies and internet media policies.
Bloom has always been a person who has thrived at evolving and adapting in order to keep up with the changing landscape in college football.
“When I first came to the conference office in 1995, the expectations weren’t as high as they are now for things like television and for information,” Bloom commented. “I think the expectations have increased, and I think that has been the biggest change. The emergence of social media and electronic media has really changed our business quite a bit. My job, more than anything else, is to stay on top of those technologies and to work in concert with the schools to do what is best for the conference. It is important to note that we don’t sit in the conference office and unilaterally make decisions very often. More times than not, decisions are made in concert with the institutions.”
There is no doubt that Bloom has been extremely influential in helping the SEC become the premiere conference in the nation, both on the field and in terms of media exposure.
However, Bloom says that he has not been alone in the campaign to make the SEC the preeminent football conference in the nation. One of the people whom Bloom says deserves a tremendous amount of credit for what the SEC has become in college football in conference commissioner Mike Slive.
“I’m not blowing smoke when I say this, but Commissioner Slive is the greatest combination of intelligence and empathy that I have ever had the pleasure of working with,” Bloom said of the SEC’s head man. “He is very smart, he cares a lot, and he has the ability to take an issue and break it down as quickly and as thoroughly as anyone I have ever seen. When the SEC hired Commissioner Slive 10 years ago, the feeling was that we were having problems in compliance, so we hired a commissioner with a background in that area to fix those problems. He has far exceeded that though. He has overseen a ‘Golden Age’ in terms of our success on the playing field, and he has got a nature of him that is quiet confidence.”
More than just a person with a passion for college football, Bloom is also involved with numerous community service projects in his area. He says that he gives back to the community because he has been blessed with a job which allows him to make a difference in people’s lives.
Currently, his main community service project in Birmingham is with a group called Uplifting Athletes, which is a non-profit organization that helps raise funds for rare diseases. Bloom works very closely with a former Penn State football player in an effort to raise money for rare disease research.
“I have been fortunate to have the platform that has been given to me,” Bloom described of his position as associate commissioner. “I work in the SEC and my position is looked upon by a lot of people as being someone who can help others. I have no doubt that it’s not because of me, but because of where I work. Regardless, I try to help others, because I think that I have been helped quite a bit. I think it is the least that I can do to give back.”
As the conference hopes to continue its streak of dominance on the playing field, Bloom will continue to be one of the leading innovators when it comes to college football media relations.
Although he may never receive the public attention of some of college football’s other most influential individuals, Bloom is a man who has left an indelible mark on the landscape of the biggest sport in college athletics.
While the common fan focuses on the players underneath the pads or the coaches wearing the headsets, it is people like Charles Bloom who enhance the college football experience for the masses.