“When VCU made it to the Sweet 16, I was like, ‘Oh. My. Gosh.’ I went crazy. When they went to the Elite Eight, I thought I was going to die,” said Rupali Saxena, 19, a VCU sophomore who is majoring in bioinformatics. And then the Final Four? “It has been a riot. That’s the only way to describe it.”

Enthusiasm for the Cinderella team has consumed Richmond. Professors have canceled classes or postponed assignments so that students can bask in the glow of all-out spirit. Several bars have plastered their windows with Rams signs, and city buses changed their digital display boards to congratulate the team.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch added basketballs to its online masthead, local morning television anchors giddily talked about their Saturday night plans, and, at least on Thursday night, one radio station kept getting requests for the rap song “Black and Yellow.” You would think there’s a city-wide dress code because so many people are sporting black and gold

“Everyone else is finally seeing what we always knew about VCU,” said Zach Mullins, 18, a freshman mechanical engineering major from Chesterfield, Va.

(This week there were even VCU-themed doughnuts sold in Richmond.)

“Twenty-five dollars and their school spirit,” she said. “That’s what they pay.”

The words “school spirit” keep coming up as students riff about what the Final Four means to VCU -- and, more deeply, what it means to them. But what exactly is historic school spirit?

It’s a lot of things, several students said. It’s a seemingly never-ending line at the campus bookstore, which is constantly getting more shipments of VCU T-shirts and gear. It’s record numbers of hits to the school Web site, and likely record-numbers of students changing their Facebook profile photo to something VCU-related. It’s VCU outshining all of the other big-name Virginia colleges, even for just a week. And it’s the rest of the country actually knowing that the college exists.

“I have friends in San Diego and Arizona who finally know where I go,” McClure said with a laugh. “If you didn’t have school spirit, now you have it times six.”

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