?World Champion? is the most coveted title in pro rodeo competition. The sport?s world champions are crowned at the conclusion of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (December 1-10, 2011), based on total season earnings at Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) rodeos across the continent, including monies earned at the Wrangler NFR.
The PRCA crowns eight world titlists, each of whom receives a gold buckle and a specially crafted trophy saddle. The eight 2010 PRCA world champions had season earnings ranging from $101,685 to a record $507,921 for Trevor Brazile, who won three world titles that year.
Unlike most other professional sports, where contestants are paid salaries regardless of how well they do at a particular competition, cowboys generally pay to enter each rodeo. If they place high enough to win money, they probably make a profit, but if they don’t, they?ve actually lost their entry fee and any travel expenses, so every entry is a gamble pitting the chance for loss and physical injury against the chance for financial windfalls and athletic glory.
Also unlike most sanctioned professional sports, the hundreds of ?playing fields?– rodeo arenas–of PRCA-sanctioned rodeos vary widely by locale. The size, shape, perimeter and roof/open top of an arena, as well as the chute configuration, greatly affect times for timed events and, to a lesser extent, scores for roughstock events. The differences are so significant that some timed-event cowboys own different horses for different types of arenas. For that reason, the most fair way to measure cowboys? success in competition across the varied settings is by earnings. The total payout at PRCA rodeos in 2010 was $39,870,303–a $2 million increase from 2009.
The PRCA?s membership includes more than 7,000 cowboys and performers (including permit holders and contract personnel), the largest segment of the association?s membership–more than 5,300 of who are actively competing. This membership segment includes a full range of contestants, from cowboys who compete in professional rodeo for a living, crisscrossing the country with their own horses or equipment, as well as those who work at other jobs during the week and compete in nearby rodeos on the weekends. The PRCA includes two $3 million earners and more than 80 million-dollar earners, yet most of its competing members participate in fewer than 30 rodeos each year.
Cowboys qualify for the Wrangler NFR based on their season earnings at most PRCA rodeos–other than other championship rodeos such as the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (formerly Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo), the 12 Ram Circuit Finals Rodeos and the All American ProRodeo Finals.
The top 15 earners in each event qualify for Las Vegas; if one ?doctor-releases out? early enough, as Rod Hay did in 2010 due to a femur with 25 fractures near the knee, the 16th cowboy is invited to replace him. However, cowboys can count only a limited number of rodeos toward their NFR-qualifying earnings (all-around, 70; bareback riding, 100; steer wrestling, 70; team roping, 70; saddle bronc riding, 85; tie-down roping, 75; bull riding, 125), so experienced rodeo cowboys plan their competition seasons to maximize potential winnings and minimize travel.
ProRodeo attracts about 30 million fans, many of whom attend PRCA-sanctioned rodeos around the country annually. According to the Sports Business Daily, rodeo is seventh in overall attendance for major sporting events, ahead of golf and tennis. Fans can follow professional rodeo all year long through the PRCA?s television coverage on Great American Country and the Pursuit channel, the PRCA?s ProRodeo Sports News and ProRodeo.com as well as other rodeo-related media outlets.
The PRCA maintains a website with the latest news stories, cowboy blogs, world standings, rodeo results, cowboy and livestock bios, and tons of other information. The PRCA also has a Facebook presence.
All nine Gold Tour rodeos of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour presented by Justin Boots will be televised on the Pursuit channel, reaching 38 million households via DISH Network and DirecTV. Great American Country will telecast 90-minute shows on Seminole Hard Rock Xtreme Bulls Tour events as well as the RNCFR, All American ProRodeo Finals, Justin Boots Playoffs and Championships and the Wrangler NFR, reaching 60 million households via DISH Network and DirecTV Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR).
The Wrangler NFR
The sport?s richest and most prestigious rodeo showcases the world?s best contestants and stock. The 10-day championship event, held at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas every December, has enjoyed sold-out attendance for more than 20 years. In 2010, more than 170,000 fans cheered 119 of rodeo?s superstars at the 52nd Super Bowl? of rodeo, in which $5,875,000 was paid out to contestants who won or placed in rounds or in the average.
The 2011 Wrangler NFR will reach 60 million households through Great American Country?s telecasts on Dish Network?s channel 167 and DirecTV?s channel 326.
About the PRCA
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colo., is the largest and oldest rodeo-sanctioning body in the world. The recognized leader in professional rodeo, the PRCA is committed to maintaining the highest standards in the industry in every area, from improving working conditions for contestants and monitoring livestock welfare to boosting entertainment value and promoting sponsors.
The PRCA also proudly supports youth rodeo with educational camps and financial assistance to young standouts preparing to enter the professional ranks, as well as supporting allied organizations such as Tough Enough to Wear Pink, Miss Rodeo America, the American Quarter Horse Association and the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
Annually, the PRCA sanctions about 600 of the most elite multiple-event rodeos on the continent, in 37 states and three Canadian provinces–the cream of the crop among thousands of rodeo-related events that take place each year in North America. As a membership-driven organization, the PRCA works to ensure that every event it sanctions is managed with fairness and competence and that the livestock used is healthy and cared for to the highest standards.