May 6, 2016
By PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman
Per a vote of the PRCA Board of Directors, all money won at 2016-17 RAM Circuit Finals Rodeos, the 2017 RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo and the 2017 All American ProRodeo Finals presented by Pendleton Whisky will, for the first time ever, count as official earnings in the WEATHER GUARD® PRCA World Standings. This vote took place in March of 2015, but in order to give all PRCA members an equal opportunity to qualify for these respective events in a full year of competition was not implemented until this rodeo season. All PRCA members were notified at the time this passed, so this serves as a reminder and also to share this news with our fans.
This subject has been a topic of debate for many years. The PRCA surveyed its membership several years ago about circuit money counting, and the results came back almost exactly 50-50, which made it difficult to make a decision. Since then, there’s been a whole lot of conversation between the board, contestants and event reps. I know the board has steadily debated this issue the last eight years since I became commissioner.
After careful consideration, the PRCA Board voted to make this move. As a couple of examples, Rodeo Committee Director Troy Weekley said, “I think more contestants will try to get to enough rodeos to qualify for their circuit finals, so will go to not only the bigger circuit rodeos but also the smaller ones. This will help all the circuit rodeos get more entries.”
And one of our Contestant Directors, Fred Boettcher, voted for the change because, “Those finals are PRCA rodeos, so why shouldn’t they count? A top circuit guy will have a chance at the national circuit finals, and if successful there, he could win $30,000. That could put him over the hump if he has a dream to go to the NFR. Counting this money provides more opportunity for everyone.”
Fred was both a year-end and circuit finals bull riding champ in the Great Lakes Circuit during his career, and also rode at the NFR. So he’s looked long and hard at this issue for many years and from all angles. Fred won the then-Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Pocatello, Idaho, in 1999, when that money did not count toward the world standings.
“This was a hot topic back then, too,” Fred said. “I won a big check at that rodeo, but it didn’t count. If it had, I’d have made the NFR that year instead of ending up about 20th. I look at this as a big chance for our aspiring, up-and-coming cowboys. If you win that rodeo (the RNCFR), you earned it. Will this move make circuits tougher? You bet. This is professional rodeo, and it’s a talent-driven sport. I’m excited about this.”
Under the terms of key contracts, the financial opportunity for PRCA members at the circuit level is at an all-time high. Our 10-year Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER contract with Las Vegas Events includes $100,000 a year for each of our 12 circuits; our 10-year RNCFR contract with Osceola County, Fla., includes $10,000 per circuit per year; and other multi-year PRCA partnerships kick in an additional $2,000 to each circuit a year. That’s an influx of $112,000 in new money to each circuit each year, and it’s making a big difference. While a good chunk of that money is eartagged to increase the payoff at each RAM Circuit Finals Rodeo, there is also some discretionary flexibility given to circuits to put that money to the best possible use in their respective parts of the country.
First Frontier Circuit President Betsy Harris used some of her circuit’s new money to continue funding a permit program. “If First Frontier guys buy their permits and enter at least 10 rodeos in our circuit, we reimburse them for their permit dues,” Betsy said. “The point is to give them a taste. Then they figure out that they like rodeoing in our circuit, they succeed and try even harder to get to the circuit finals.
“We’ve also had two bareback riding and saddle bronc riding schools. First Frontier Circuit Board member Kevin Clanton has taken the lead on these schools, and has done a phenomenal job. We had 30 guys at the first one and 24 at the second one, and they ranged from high school kids trying to learn the ropes to experienced cowboys, who got to hone their skills and in turn helped the young guys. This is all really panning out and morale is high. Our contestants appreciate it, and we hope to see an increase in membership because of it.”
Montana Circuit President Jim Croff put $65,000 of the new money straight into the circuit finals payoff, then “gave a small, overdue raise to our stock contractors and contract personnel. The biggest thing we’ve done with this money is to use it to promote the youth in rodeo to help build membership. We need to keep the next generation interested in rodeo, and that starts young. We’ve done things like putting on a high school challenge at our finals, where the top six high school contestants in the state of Montana in the bareback riding and saddle bronc riding get to compete. We started with the events where our numbers need the biggest boost. Our focus is to try to help build PRCA membership in the future.”
Mountain States Circuit President Guy Warpness and his board also bolstered their circuit finals payoff, and in addition gave each circuit finals qualifier a stipend. “We wanted to put as much of this money in the contestants’ pockets as we could,” Guy said. “They use the stipend money to help pay their entry fees or for stalls or whatever they need. We also felt our stock contractors and contract personnel were underpaid, so we gave them a much-needed raise. We aren’t using a dime of it for circuit operations.”
Every circuit has its own success story, and that’s exciting to all of us. One of this administration’s current goals is to continue to build sponsor revenue streams for the entire circuit system, because there are benefits there that are available to every single PRCA member.