Story by Chris Graham
Lt. Gov.-elect Bill Bolling knows his first major public appearance in the aftermath of his Election Night win over Democrat Leslie Byrne could be a little trying.
“We could get booed off the field. But I’m rooting for the Hokies either way,” said Bolling, who will be in attendance at Saturday’s football clash between the University of Virginia and Virginia Tech at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.
Being an adopted Hokie is actually something that Bolling, a Republican, and Gov.-elect Tim Kaine, a Democrat, have in common.
“I’ll be a lonely guy sitting in the president’s box pulling for the Hokies. But I’m excited, and I know that Anne and the kids are excited about it,” said Kaine, who wears his Virginia Tech football allegiance on his sleeve.
He even received some political heat for his rooting interests on the campaign trail this year – Republican opponent Jerry Kilgore, a graduate of University of Virginia-Wise, is a lifelong Virginia fan.
“My middle son will be sitting there riveted to every play. I’ll be watching the game and schmoozing a little bit. But when it gets down to crunch time, I’ll be there pulling for the Hokies,” Kaine told The Augusta Free Press.
Also on hand in University of Virginia president John Casteen’s box will be Weyers Cave Republican Del. Steve Landes – who, like Kaine and Bolling, will be pulling for Tech.
“I root for Tech because my brother went to school there, and I follow them more closely because of him. But I’ll be at the game as a guest of the university, so I’ll be sure to be gracious to my hosts as well,” said Landes, the chair of the Republican caucus in the Virginia House of Delegates.
Landes will also be playing some politics by keeping his interests in the outcome to himself as much as possible.
“My district goes into Albemarle County, and most of the people there are rooting for the University of Virginia. But most of the people who live on this side of the mountain are rooting for Virginia Tech,” Landes told the AFP.
Also splitting down the middle is Winchester Sen. Russ Potts – who waged an unsuccessful bid for governor this year.
“Oh, no. My daddy might have raised a dumb son, but he didn’t raise that dumb a son. I might have come in on a turnip truck, but not the last turnip truck. You’re not going to nail me down on that one,” Potts said when asked who he will be cheering for on Saturday.
Potts, a former Division I athletics director and Major League Baseball executive, didn’t pull any punches when asked his thoughts on who would win on Saturday.
“I think Virginia Tech is going to win, but all the dynamics are changed now. I predict Virginia will play very well. Marques Hagans is the key to Virginia’s success. And the off-week for Virginia Tech can be just as much a viability as an asset,” Potts told the AFP.
“Another advantage Virginia has is their very impressive record at home. They have played well at home the last four seasons, really throughout the Groh tenure. They are one of the better home teams in the country. So anybody who sells Virginia short Saturday is shortsighted,” Potts said.
“That said, Virginia Tech has the best talent, and Virginia Tech is going to win the game, though it will be close,” Potts said.
Bolling, like Potts, thinks the game will be a nail-biter.
“Tech obviously is coming off a big defeat, and you have to see how they handle that,” Bolling told the AFP, referencing the Hokies’ recent 27-7 loss at the hands of third-ranked Miami.
“Does it deflate their spirits, or does it get them up a little bit? You have to see how they handle that,” Bolling said.
“They clearly have a better team, as their record would indicate. But UVa. plays extremely tough at home. And I think in a rivalry like this, their records go out the door, and it’s all about emotion. You know UVa. is going to be up playing Tech at home,” Bolling said.
Kaine agrees that “with Tech and UVa., it isn’t a matter of who is playing well and who isn’t. You’re going to get up for your rivals.”
“But Tech has some work to do to overcome its effort against Miami. And Virginia is coming off that gritty win over Georgia Tech last week,” Kaine said.
“I think the Hokies will win. But it isn’t going to be easy,” Kaine said.