The ladies who watch South Carolina football are as varied as their male counterparts.
There’s the college co-eds, with the game day uniform of black or garnet dress paired with cowboy boots.
“I know that it’s a tradition,” said USC sophomore Taylor Wilson, who was sporting an urban-chic variation of the uniform – boots with a black skirt and white tank for the Tennessee game Oct. 27. “We’re showing our Southern side.”
And there’s the die-hards, such as Sara Krisnow, the community relations manager for Lizard’s Thicket, who goes to tailgates at the restaurant chain’s corporate office on Market Street in the shadow of Williams-Brice Stadium.
“I know what’s going on,” Krisnow said. “I’m not just there to look pretty at games. There are some girls that just come for the tailgating. It’s just another social event for them.”
And then there’s women such as Libby Church, who turned 90 in April, whose life has intertwined with her love of the Gamecocks since she and her late husband, Wyatt, began rooting for USC athletic teams in 1960s.
The Churches used to go to every football game, home and away. She once helped women’s basketball coach Nancy Wilson recruit Martha Parker from Hammond School. Parker and Church subsequently became friends. She remembers sitting in metal folding chairs at the top of Carolina Coliseum to watch the men’s basketball team under Frank McGuire in the early 1970s. “Following the Gamecocks, I’ve lost my fear of heights,” she said.
After Wyatt died in 2001, Church gave up road football games, but she still happily tailgates at home games with her family, which includes granddaughter Leigh Ann Lunsford.
During baseball season, Church and friends Shirley Knox and Clara Hutto are dubbed the Three Musketeers by fellow fans. Another friend, Fran Bollin, has joined that trio.
At Church’s home near Forest Lake, a signed basketball by the women’s team sits on a shelf above the bar in the sunroom. The bar features Gamecock-themed cocktail napkins and wine holder. There’s a Gamecock blanket draped over the back of a chair that is in front of a shelf that the holds three brass Gamecocks figurines. Even the water pitcher is tinted garnet. Media guides for various Gamecock teams is the leisurely reading of choice in the room.
Christie Leigh Mueller, author of “Gridiron Belles: A Guide to Saturdays in Dixie,” suggests that, for women, the game is more than grilled burgers, cheap cans of beer and play-by-play from armchair quarterbacks.
“The game of football is social,” Mueller said.
Knowing about the game is a way to stay connected in the huddle, so to speak. Mueller said knowing football, for women, can level the playing field.
“Whether it’s social or the business world, we need to be in that conversation in the workforce,” she said.
When the team is winning, like now, the games – and the parties around them – are more fun to attend. When the team is losing, some fans skip the games altogether.
Not Church, a member of the Gamecock Club for 45 years who still serves as a greeter at the Columbia Touchdown Club meetings at Seawell’s.
“We stuck with them,” she said.
“I guess I just don’t give up,” she said. “Win or lose.”
Go ahead and cue the Chairmen of the Board. Perhaps “Carolina Girls” are the best in the world. Fans, that is.