Clemson orange will color one Blufftonian’s state of mind Monday.
When the team completed this year’s undefeated regular season, 1981 Clemson graduate and Bluffton mayor Lisa Sulka vowed to be at the game if the Tigers clawed their way to tonight’s national championship.
The Tigers did their part, dispatching the Oklahoma University Sooners in last month’s playoff semi-final and earning a trip to the championship game in Glendale, Arizona.
Sulka will be front and center for the highly anticipated clash with the University of Alabama.
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Through a Clemson athletics booster club, she was able to purchase tickets – last-minute and at a price she said she would not reveal to the newspaper or to her husband.
She booked flights for herself and her two daughters – Brannon and Haley – also Clemson graduates.
There was only one hitch: Bluffton’s town council meeting was scheduled for Tuesday and Sulka wouldn’t be back from Arizona in time.
So she did the only thing a diehard fan could do: She pushed the meeting back a day.
“I talked to (town staff) to make sure (postponing a council meeting) is allowed by our rules,” Sulka said last week. “I’ve never done it before, but that’s one perk I get as mayor.”
Sulka was a senior at Clemson in 1981 for the miracle season that ended with her family making the trek to Miami to watch the unbeaten Tigers defeat the University of Nebraska in the Orange Bowl to claim the Clemson’s first and only national title.
She and her father, also a Clemson graduate, attended every Tigers game that year.
“It was such an amazing experience,” she said. “And I swore if they ever made it back (to the championship game), I wasn’t going to miss it.”
“I’m proud of how well they’re coached and how exciting this young team is,” she said.
Town Hall was buzzing all season with friendly wagers between fans of rival teams, Sulka said.
When Clemson beat the University of North Carolina in last month’s ACC championship game, Bluffton Police Chief Joey Reynolds, a North Carolina native and Tarheels fan, was forced to don a Tigers jersey at a town council meeting.
Town spokeswoman Debbie Szpanka, a University of Alabama graduate, was diplomatic last week when asked for her thoughts on tonight’s game.
Although she predicted a win for the Crimson Tide, Szpanka said both teams “have certainly earned their spot in this game.”
Sulka said she “respect(s) the love and loyalty” Szpanka has for her alma mater, but is sure her Tigers will roll back the Tide.
Despite a No. 1 ranking and an undefeated record, the Tigers come into tonight’s game as underdogs.
But Sulka remains confident. Her team’s doubters “have motivated (the Clemson players) 100 percent,” she said.
She declined to predict a final score, but said “the game will be super tight – I don’t think anyone is going to run away with it.”
The national championship kicks off at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN.
When the rescheduled meeting kicks off at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, expect the mayor to be “roaring” to go.