Virginia members split over Texas trips for VCU’s surprise Final Four game

A home team’s upset win in a major national sports tournament can present a tough choice for lawmakers: a) Travel a long way to watch your underdog team take on a powerhouse and possibly lose; or b) Stay home and cheer alongside your constituents. 

This week, no state’s members are grappling with these options more than Virginia’s, following Virginia Commonwealth University’s defeat of top-seeded Kansas on Sunday to advance to the Final Four this weekend in Houston, where the Rams will take on last year’s upstarts, Butler University, on Saturday.

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was weighing travel options even before this past weekend’s games happened, telling WTOP radio last Friday that he would definitely be there in person if the Final Four included two Virginia teams. (The University of Richmond was eliminated later that day.) McDonnell said he’d even scored a ride already. 

“I’d love to go if VCU and Richmond play each other,” he said, “and we’ve got an offer to go see them, and I may take them up on it.” McDonnell declined to say who had offered him the trip.

But if there were only one Virginia team in the Final Four, McDonnell said he might stay home. “I’m still not sure whether I’m going to [travel for only one team].”

One guy who is sure? House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who first proved his home-team love really, really early Monday morning by trekking to the Richmond Airport to greet VCU coach Shaka Smart and the team on their arrival home after Sunday’s win. 

According to a source close to the majority leader, as of Monday afternoon Cantor was working to see if he could attend the semifinal game in Houston.

Same goes for Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), whose district is home to VCU’s campus. A source close to Scott said Monday that the lawmaker intends to be in the stands on Saturday. 

But not everyone is schlepping to Texas.

Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) “will be watching the VCU Rams beat Butler from Virginia,” a spokeswoman told ITK. Also watching the game from home will be GOP Reps. Randy Forbes and Scott Rigell and Democrat Jim Moran, according to their offices. A spokesman for Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) declined to comment on his plans.