As summer draws to a close, sports fans’ thoughts turn to goal posts, spherical balls, and, if your heart bleeds garnet and black, the exhilarating trumpet sound of “Also sprach Zarathustra,” popularly known as 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In one of the best entrances in college football, fireworks burst from behind the scoreboard as the song ends, and the players and coaches of the University of South Carolina team explode onto the field at Williams-Brice Stadium to the roar of the crowd. For fans, the season typically consists of 12 regular games and, hopefully, a trip to a bowl game. However, the job is year-round and all-consuming for a coach. Carolina football coaches succeed thanks in large part to the support of their wives.
“I consider it my job to support my husband, my family, and Gamecock Nation any way I can,” says Carol Muschamp, wife of Carolina head football coach Will Muschamp. One way she does this is by taking care of things at home so Will can focus on his responsibilities. When he has time off, her efforts allow them to relax as a family. This is true for other coaches’ wives as well.
Melinda Wolford, wife of offensive line coach Eric Wolford, whom she calls “Wolfie,” benefits from her independent personality. “I take charge and manage everything at home while Wolfie spends long hours in the office, recruiting, and in meetings.” The Wolfords choose to live as close as they can to the stadium so Eric’s commute is as short as possible, and they can maximize time spent together.
The work of a coach’s wife goes far beyond household tasks. In addition to traditional household and parental duties, they play the role of surrogate mothers to student athletes. Mandi Robinson is the wife of Travaris Robinson, Carolina’s defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach. He is known as “T-Rob” in the coaching world, but Mandi just calls him “T.”
“They’re great kids,” she says of the players. She has them over sometimes for a meal and makes sure they know she is there for them. “When their birthdays are coming up, I do my best to send them a card, note, cupcake, or a small cake to make sure they know I am thinking of them,” Mandi says. “If they’re at the house, I have a cake for them with candles and singing. They think they’re too old for all that and look at me like I’m crazy, but they love it.”
The outside linebackers feel the love from Chantal Peterson, wife of their coach, Mike Peterson. “I make them treats before every home game and their favorite desserts for their birthdays,” she says. “I’ve learned to make all kinds of things so they have their favorites. If they have surgery, I’m right there holding their hands with their parents. It’s important to me to be there to provide support. I would want someone to do that for my sons. I text or call their moms often and thank them for sharing their sons with us.”
Chantal finds it very rewarding to see the players come in as freshman and watch them change from boys to men. She believes it is comforting for players’ mothers to know that the coaches’ wives will support their children when needed. “My players’ mothers know that I am only a phone call away,” she says.
Having the players come into their homes is just as much a treat for the coaches’ families as it is for the players. Football players are not your average visitors though. “They eat a lot,” says Carol. “I’m not a gifted cook. I’ve learned to have meals catered so there’s enough food to feed them and send them home with to-go boxes. It’s fun for the players to see the laid-back side of Will, and it’s fascinating for me to learn about their hobbies outside of football. Some like to cook and fish, others are talented singers. We turn off the cell phones and get out the karaoke machine. It’s so much fun.”
The Wolfords enjoy having the players in their home, too. Melinda laughs about having to replace chairs that break because the players are so large. “The last time I bought outdoor furniture, I told the salesperson it had to be metal,” she says.
As the head coach’s wife, Carol has an additional responsibility. “I want the other coaches’ wives to be happy because we couldn’t succeed without the work they do behind the scenes. I feel like it’s my job to support them,” she says. She schedules lunches and spa days for them. If someone has a baby, she organizes a baby shower. “I want to make sure they are happy and feel connected,” says Carol.
Her efforts do not go unnoticed. “We’re fortunate that we have a head coach’s wife who is dedicated, thoughtful, and present,” Chantal says. “It’s very special to have.”
How They Met Their Husbands
Carol: “We met one weekend in college when Ole Miss played Georgia in football. Will played for the University of Georgia with my cousin, Whit Marshall, and was a friend of my older brother, John, who also went to Georgia. John didn’t want his friends dating me; I was the little sister. After college when I was working in Atlanta, Whit and Will came to town. Will asked for my number then.”
Chantal: “We met when Mike and I were students at the University of Florida. We dated a long time, eventually marrying in 2006. This life is always an adventure, from Mike playing in the NFL for 14 years to me now being a coach’s wife. I have been able to see both sides of the game.”
Mandi: “We met in high school.” Travaris approached her because one of his teammates on the football team wanted to date her. “We became friends and ended up going to senior prom together. In high school Spanish class, T had to create an invitation to a party, so he decided to create invitations to our wedding and handed them out in school. It took me a very long time to buy into that plan (10 years), but it eventually worked.”
Melinda: “We were eating in the same restaurant one night, and Wolfie sent one of his friends over to ask for my number. I said if he wanted my number, he’d have to ask himself, and he did. We met for lunch the next day, and the rest is history.”
Carol and Will have sons, Jackson and Whit, who both love sports, especially football. “It’s in their DNA,” Carol says. Both boys are quarterbacks. The Muschamps just dropped off Jackson at the University of Georgia, where he will play for the Bulldogs. Whit is a rising high school freshman.
Chantal and Mike are also parents to two sons, Michael, 13, and Gavin, 10. Chantal says it has been rewarding to see her sons rise to the challenges of learning at home due to COVID-19.
Mandi and Travaris enjoy watching Travaris’ daughter, Jordyn, 14, play volleyball. Their sons Tyson, 8, and Travis, 5, love all sports, and they especially love Cocky. “They want Cocky everything — pillows, blankets, stuffed animals, hats, socks,” Mandi says. “They hunt him down at every game.”
Melinda and Eric have a son, Stone, who is 14, and a daughter, Marlee, who is 12. Both enjoy the team atmosphere of Carolina football. They are accustomed to being flexible and taking advantage of time they have as a family.
The ladies appreciate the lessons their children learn as coaches’ kids. The children see firsthand how much effort and work ethic goes into being a successful player and a successful coach. The life requires them to make sacrifices for the goals of the family and the team. Melinda, Chantal, and Mandi appreciate Will’s open invitation for coaches’ families to visit at the stadium and opportunities to attend away games, perks not offered by every college program. “I definitely like that Coach Muschamp makes it a family-oriented atmosphere,” says Mandi. “If we want to bring the kids to the stadium during the week, it’s absolutely not an issue.”
More Than Spouses
Carol earned a degree in social work from the University of Mississippi and worked as a teacher and tutor. She also taught parenting classes.
Chantal earned a bachelor’s degree in English, minoring in African American studies, from the University of Florida. She also earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the Indiana Wesleyan University. She has worked as a professor and is still licensed to teach in two states.
Mandi earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial systems engineering with a minor in business administration from the University of Florida, a master’s degree in sport administration from Georgia State University, and a master’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. She has used all her degrees and had her own industrial and systems engineering consulting business.
Melinda earned a degree in psychology from Freed-Hardeman University, a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Abilene Christian University, and a Ph.D. in school psychology, with a minor in neuropsychology, from Texas Women’s University. She was a graduate college professor working on her doctorate when she met Eric.
About Their Guys
Carol: “We really value time together at home. We exercise together, play games, and love being on the lake. Will loves to grill, and he’s really good at it.”
Chantal: “Mike won’t go to sleep until the needs of family are met. That’s very important to him. It shows us how committed he is to his job and to his family because he doesn’t miss a beat with either one. He’s really a good guy.”
Mandi: “T is really happy when they win. It’s a high high, but then he’s looking forward to the next game. He’s sad when we lose, but then he moves on. Whether it’s recruiting or making time to play with the kids, he doesn’t have time to mope.”
Melinda: “I’m thankful for Eric’s attitude. He teaches his student athletes, and he teaches us that you have to decide what you need to do to be successful in life each day.”
In addition to everything else they do, the coaches’ wives give back to the community. A tight knit group, all the wives support the interests of one another.
Carol organizes contributions to Families Helping Families at Christmas. “Will and I started Feed Our Heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she says. “We wanted to help the health care employees fighting COVID right here in the Midlands. We also support Camp Cole.”
Chantal and Mike started the Mike Peterson Foundation in 2004 in an effort to support underserved and socioeconomically challenged families. The most recent activity was this past year’s Turkey Day Family Festival, which provided Thanksgiving dinner to 100 families. The foundation received support from local businesses in the Columbia area. The event enjoyed the support of Petersons’ football family, as well as Carolina sports celebrities Dawn Staley, Anya and Frank Martin, and Cocky. “It’s wonderful how the Carolina coaches support one another,” Chantal says.
The Wolfords started the No Stone Unturned Foundation, inspired by their son, Stone, who has Cardiofaciocutaneous Syndrome. No Stone Unturned is a nonprofit, therapeutic learning center located in Manhattan, Kansas, where Eric attended college. The foundation is dedicated to embracing, engaging, and empowering children with special needs and their families. The Wolfords pushed to get services for Stone and saw 42 doctors before finally getting an accurate diagnosis. Says Melinda, “We formed the foundation because we wanted to find ways to support families who aren’t able to access the providers/services that we were able to access to do what we did.”
Carol: “Will likes to create obstacle courses for our boys and challenges them to do things like push his truck around our property.”
Chantal: She is the daughter of Belizean immigrants and still has family in Belize. She is also an avid reader and enjoys traveling often.
Mandi: As a University of Florida graduate, she is a huge Gator fan. However, when former head football coach Steve Spurrier came to USC, she began to like the Gamecocks. “I pulled for the Gamecocks instead of Florida quite a few times when Coach Spurrier was at the helm,” she says. “Except when T coached for Florida, of course.”
Melinda: She is the oldest of eight children. The daughter of missionaries, she grew up in Kenya and came to the United States to attend college, followed in turn by her seven siblings. She provided a home base for them since her parents were still serving in Kenya.
Carolina Fans: Winning, Losing, and Giving 110 Percent
All four ladies praise the enthusiasm of Carolina fans. “We couldn’t do what we do without them,” says Carol.
Mandi is amazed by the energy at the games. “Everyone is all in. If we lost the week before, the fans are back and excited all over again like nothing happened. I can’t stress it enough: the Carolina fan base is awesome.”
Winning is great; losing, not so much. “Wolfie has a 24-hour rule: 24 hours to celebrate or 24 hours to grieve, then we move on,” says Melinda. While all four women avoid social media, criticism is hard to hear. They understand that fans do not have a way of knowing what is going on behind the scenes, like when a player gets hurt and the coaches must adjust their game plan on the fly. It is particularly hard for their children to hear the team or individual players criticized because the players are their friends, but it also creates teachable moments.
Chantal says, “We teach our boys to always give 110 percent. It puts wins and losses in perspective because if you keep learning from the mistakes, then you should be able to be proud of yourself no matter what the outcome is. That’s how I keep wins and losses in perspective but, of course, you always want to win.”
Carolina football coaches may make it look easy on those exciting fall Saturdays; however, the long hours and year-round effort they put into their jobs are consuming. Their time is in constant demand, whether on the field or on the recruiting trail, at practices, in the weight room, or a hospital waiting room. Fortunately for them, and for Carolina football fans, they have the love, help, and support of their compassionate, intelligent, strong, and beautiful wives.