Billy Fitzpatrick ’20
Marcus Blossom is ready.
Sitting in his spacious but unassuming office perched above the new indoor turf field at the beautiful Luth Athletic Complex, Blossom makes it difficult for anyone around him to not feel optimistic. Optimistic about the future of Holy Cross athletics, about new men’s basketball head coach Brett Nelson’s ability to revive an historic program, or just about life. It is precisely this infectious positivity that helped make Blossom the clearcut choice to succeed Nathan Pine as Director of Athletics at Holy Cross this past July.
Don’t mistake his youthful optimism for naivete, though. While Blossom is one of the youngest athletics directors in the Patriot League at the age of 39, he feels his past experiences have groomed him well for this step up in responsibility. Blossom is a 2001 graduate of Northeastern University, where he starred on the men’s basketball team and earned three all-conference selections as well as three GTE District I Academic All-American distinctions over his four years. He understands the demands that Holy Cross student-athletes face in balancing their commitments, having shared a similar experience at a similarly rigorous academic institution not too long ago.
While he understands the modern student-athlete from his own collegiate years, Blossom also feels his array of professional experience prepares him well for the job ahead. Prior to taking the AD role at Holy Cross, Blossom spent the past five years at Boston College, where his main responsibility was overseeing all budget and financial operations of the athletics department, in addition to managing technology, interactive media, and broadcast services.
He held similar roles at both Providence College and Brown University before joining the BC staff in 2014. After spending time at these schools, he understands the challenges facing a Jesuit, New England college that prioritizes academics, but also knows what it takes to elevate an athletics program to the next level.
“I think all my experiences at other places, not just BC, prepared me for this. Being at Brown, probably pretty similar to here. Being at Providence, when they were in the old Big East … I take all my experiences from a variety of places, and I’ve probably experienced something with each current state with each one of our sports somewhere else. I think that helps.”
From these experiences, Blossom has been able to both develop his own leadership style (he managed over 60 individuals in his latest role at Boston College), and observe how three different athletics directors led their departments. He knows what he needs to do now that he holds that top role.
“The one thing I see as the leader – I don’t think you can have a bad day. I think you have to bring it every day. Because if you don’t bring it, you set the tone. If I’m exhausted before I come [in the office], you gotta sit in the car for five minutes, take a couple deep breaths, and get that energy. Because when you walk in, everyone’s looking at you.”
In this regard, Blossom practices what he preaches. Many student-athletes have noted that the new AD has been a visible presence around the Luth Athletic Complex, not only attending games, but also checking in on practices and workouts. Blossom knows that he sets the tone for the entire department now, and he wants student-athletes, coaches, and administrators to know that he is taking a hands-on approach to engagement with all Crusader sports teams.
“I think you have to show that what they’re doing is important. It shows that you’re supporting the coach, that you’re supporting the student-athletes… You might observe something that you think you could fix, too, or that you think needs to change. You got to be around to assess what our programs need and how they’re really doing.”
While he spreads optimism for HC athletics to all around him, Blossom also knows that there is a job to be done, and that the Holy Cross community deserves more from its athletics program than the Patriot League mediocrity that has plagued most HC sports this century. Over his first four months on the job, Blossom has familiarized himself with a passionate alumni and donor base, and has heard the cries for HC to revive its former athletic glory. His message to fans – alumni, students, and the community as a whole – is grounded in reality but peppered with optimism and high expectations.
“We want to be great, and great may look different than it did in 1959, or the 80s, or the early 2000s with Ralph Willard. We want to be the best in the Patriot League, and the best overall program in the Patriot League.
“For one, that makes our alumni feel very proud. But the main reason is for the overall student-athlete experience. Those alumni that I see that are excited about Holy Cross, most of them that are excited about Holy Cross, they were here when we were winning. So, it’s very important for our student-athletes that we have, to leave here with a winning experience, because that affects their overall connectivity to the College, ten, fifteen, twenty years from now.”
While there may not be any Bob Cousys or Gordie Lockbaums passing through Mount Saint James anymore, Blossom is hoping he can usher in an era of Holy Cross athletics in which all student-athletes compete for Patriot League championships and NCAA Tournament appearances year in and year out. After years of widespread mediocrity, it’s unclear if that is possible. But Blossom feels that he is ready and that this program is ready to make the leap. After spending just an hour with him, it is hard to feel otherwise.