By Hassell Wilkinson
Sitting in section 14, row 3 in Swayze field, elbows resting on her knees and hands holding her face, Camie Bianco intently watches the Rebel baseball team at play. For many, Ole Miss baseball games are a mere spectacle, but, for her, they determine her family’s future.
Her role as a supportive mother extends to the Oxford community through LovePacks, a food organization that serves hungry students in Oxford and Lafayette County schools. From bagging nonperishable food on weekdays to cheering in ballparks on weekends, Camie Bianco is a supporter of those she loves.
A native of south Louisiana, Bianco attended Louisiana State University as an education major. Being involved in athletics in high school, she decided to volunteer as an athletic trainer. That’s how she met her husband, current Ole Miss baseball head coach Mike Bianco, who played for LSU in 1988 and 1989.
After the couple graduated from college, they began their pursuit in their desired fields– Camie in education and Mike in financial planning. Soon after, Camie noticed that her then-boyfriend was struggling with his job. She asked him “Don’t you miss baseball?” and told him he should go into coaching.
Although she pushed him to pursue baseball coaching, Camie had no expectations of how her husband’s career would go.
“He set a lot of goals for himself really early,” she said. “He said ‘I want to be a head coach by the time I’m 30 and a head coach in a big conference by the time I’m 35’, and I thought ‘that sounds great! Let’s do it.”
In 2001, after serving as head coach at McNeese State, Mike became the head coach at Ole Miss, the “dream job” in their eyes.
“Having been at LSU for so long and being in the SEC, we had been to Oxford and always thought it was a great city and place to raise kids. We loved how homey it felt compared to other bigger cities in the SEC. So, this was like a dream come true.”
When they moved to Oxford, the entire Bianco family hit the ground running. They joined St. John’s Catholic Church and enrolled their young children in the Oxford School District. Becoming an active member in her church, Camie made connections that would soon lead her to make an impact on the entire Oxford community.
“My friend from church moved to Oxford from a big city where food insecurity was a real issue and asked around to see if that was a problem here, too,” she recalled. “So she started a LovePacks pilot program at a small elementary school here and realized that food insecurity is a much bigger problem in Oxford than people thought. So, she brought myself and another friend of ours on board.”
LovePacks is a nonprofit organization that works to feed hungry children in the Oxford and Lafayette County school districts. Volunteers collect and distribute food to students who may go home to a household with limited or no food.
The Oxford community fully supported LovePacks and its mission from the start.
“Really through word of mouth, it just grew,” she said. “We don’t have any guaranteed funding or anything, it just really is this community. They embraced it and decided to support this and help feed these hungry kids. That, to me, is kind of like a little miracle.”
Philanthropy is very important to Camie. It’s something she values not only as a community member but as a person, too. She credits her value of service to her parents.
“My philosophy is that we’re all put on this Earth to serve each other,” she said. “Everybody has a different gift to bring to that and can use your gifts in different ways to help others. My parents were a great example of that growing up.”
The mother to 5 children, 3 of which played collegiate baseball last season, and the wife to the head coach of the number 1 ranked team in the nation, needless to say, Camie had a busy spring.
“At the beginning of the season, I sat down and figured out what I was going to do with my boys. I looked at the schedules and tried to plan out which games I would go to for each kid, and a lot of times it worked out.”
The 2022 Ole Miss baseball season was nothing short of spectacular. Coming into the season ranked number 1 in the nation, Rebel fans had high hopes for the team. However, after a series of losses that resulted in the team dropping in the rankings, fans were angry and pointed blame toward their head coach. Aggressive hate comments and social media attacks came directed toward the Bianco family.
“As a mom, that was hard because as a family we were very concerned about what was going to happen to us personally,” said Camie. “That’s just a part of being a coach’s family. And so that was very hard, just having to deal with a lot of the negativity out there.”
Being in a coach’s family in today’s world is similar to being related to a celebrity. Coaches, especially in the Southeastern Conference, are celebrities to many fans. When their team does well, they are praised and celebrated, but when their team is struggling, fans attack and criticize. Dealing with public hate makes Camie’s role as a mother hard.
“We always tell our kids, there are a lot of pros to this– getting to go to all these great places and be around all these great kids– but then you are also under the microscope sometimes. You just have to deal with that. You have to develop thick skin.”
Camie has learned how to tune out the negative noise by straying away from social media and keeping loved ones close. In her lowest moments, she turns to her faith for guidance. “I have very strong faith, so that is what sustained me in the lowest moments of last season. God is the very first person that I go to, especially in the low times.”
Bouncing back from a losing streak to winning the national championship, there were lots of low moments throughout the year, yet, it could not have ended on a happier note.
“It’s so hard to get [to Omaha], so, when you get there, you enjoy every single moment because it’s so precious. You’re definitely playing to win, and the games are nerve-wracking, but it’s such a cool thing to experience. I will never forget it. Some days I just sit and relive some of the memories.”
One thing that Camie thinks is so great about being in a coach’s family is the bonds made between other families on staff. Watching the games and traveling with the team throughout the years has really brought the coaches’ wives and children together. “We call it our baseball family. We were doing basically everything together: eating in the hotel, going to the zoo, riding the bus to the games. I love spending time with the other coaches wives and kiddos.”
Camie Bianco holds many roles of support in her community and family. Through fighting childhood hunger and parenting under the spotlight, she’s learned what her strengths are.
“My best quality is that I show up. If you asked me to do something or need me in whatever way, I’m going to do it. I’m going to show up. I have a strong work ethic for the things I love. If you show up and work hard, usually good things will happen.”