You would think a legislator who went to Florida Gulf Coast University -- and whose last name, Eagle, is the same as the school nickname -- would be cheering for his alma mater to stomp the Florida Gators in the Sweet 16 bracket in the NCAA college basketball tournament.
But deep down, Rep. Dane Eagle is a Gator. He later transferred to UF, and Gator pride runs deep in Florida's Capitol, which is why he says he hasn't yet decided whom to root for on Friday night.
"I'm still thinking about it. It's going to be bittersweet either way," said Eagle, one of two state lawmakers who have attended FGCU in the school's brief history. He says FGCU's incredible Cinderella story is creating lots of buzz, and lawmakers with no ties to either school are rooting for the Gators to lose.
Eagle's 13th-floor Capitol office is decorated with Gator memorabilia, with no Eagle bling in sight. But Eagle asked his sister, an FGCU student, to get him a blue-and-green T-shirt at the FGCU bookstore. "I'm jumping on the bandwagon, that's for sure," Eagle said.
A total of 27 state lawmakers have degrees from UF, some of them from the law school in Gainesville.
Chris Cantens, legislative aide to Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, has good reason to root for the Eagles: Brother Joey is the university's director of basketball operations.
Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, works at Florida Gulf Coast as budget manager for the college of arts and sciences. Rodrigues' roommate during legislative sessions, Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, who has a graduate degree from the University of Miami (also in the Sweet 16), says he's rooting for FGCU "out of spite."
"I want Florida to lose, and then I want to rub it in the face of the Florida alums, who are quite nasty up in the Capitol," Artiles said.
Another Gator-hater is Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, an FSU graduate. "Florida is the last team I want to win," Braynon said.
Rep. Eddy Gonzalez, R-Hialeah, chairman of the Miami-Dade delegation, is focused on the 'Canes upcoming matchup with Marquette on Thursday night. "Florida has had a powerhouse basketball program for awhile," Gonzalez said. "It's great to see the 'Canes in the mix, too."
-- Steve Bousquet, Kathleen McGrory and Katie Sanders
-- With reporting by Kathleen McGrory and Katie Sanders, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau