Posted by Matt Norlander
VCU has only begun to reap the rewards and positive PR from its unpredictable Final Four run. The Rams' appearance in Houston will have benefits that will last for years, but in the here and now, three pretty cool things are happening for the head coach and an outgoing senior.
Shaka Smart, who spurned potential significant raises at major-conference schools and chose to stay with VCU, will be making two privileged public appearances in the next three weeks. First, Smart will hop in the car and head east for the White House Correspondents dinner, on April 30. The dinner takes place at the end of each April and has become more and more of a celebrity-driven event. This year's featured performer is Seth Myers.
It's not an easy ticket to snag, and Smart's probably not in attendance if his team doesn't beat Kansas in San Antonio on March 27.
Eight days later, on May 8, Smart will lead the Bleacher Bums and Cubbies faithful in the north side of Chicago, singing during the seventh-inning stretch at Wrigley Field. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" has brought out the best and worst (mostly the worst) in celebrity drive-by performances. Wonder how Smart will do. He seems like a Tenor 2 to me.
The Cubs play against Cincinnati that day. The reason for Smart's appearance is due to his Chicago ties; he frequently went to Cubs games when he was younger, when his grandfather took him, the same grandfather who died during VCU's Final Four run this season.
Smart grew up in Madison, Wisc., but claims the Cubs as his team. The Cubs have had plans in the works for awhile to get Smart and Brad Stevens to the park to sing. Stevens ran this gamut last year, when he utilized his pipes in the booth and his arm on the mound. No public response yet from Stevens, but it'd be pretty great if he made a second trip north this spring.
As for the aforementioned senior, the Rams' Joey Rodriguez will head to the White House on May 5. Why? He'll be a special guest for the annual Cinco de Mayo dinner. In case you're wondering: graduation comes 16 days later. What a way to finish up college. It's been an incredible ending for Rodriguez, who came extremely close to not playing for Smart at VCU. Talk about having the right change of heart.