New Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association commissioner clarifies importance of local rodeos

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The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is the premier Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event and the PRCA has other prestigious rodeos with relatively large payouts. The PRCA also has medium-payout and small rodeos while relying on college, high school and youth rodeo organizations to develop competitors. In his first press conference as the PRCA commissioner, George Taylor stressed the need for the rodeos to work together.

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is the premier Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event and the PRCA has other prestigious rodeos with relatively large payouts. The PRCA also has medium-payout and small rodeos while relying on college, high school and youth rodeo organizations to develop competitors. In his first press conference as the PRCA commissioner, George Taylor stressed the need for the rodeos to work together.

“I want to partner together to move the sport forward and have it grow,” Taylor said during his Dec. 11 press conference. “It’s really about us all helping each other. I believe if we’re together, this can’t be stopped.”

Taylor was named as the PRCA commissioner in January 2018 following the retirement of Karl Stressman.

“We’ve made some progress this year, but we’ve got a lot left to do,” Taylor said.

Some of that work involves marketing, which will require a product as well as marketing efforts themselves.

“The story is what sells,” said Taylor.

Support for smaller rodeos will provide competitors for the larger rodeos which may gave spectators name recognition of some of the competitors at the smaller rodeos.

“It’s about reaching down and reaching up,” Taylor said.  “Every rodeo needs the help of people above and below them.”

Taylor had been Caterpillar’s chief marketing officer prior to taking the role as the PRCA commissioner.

“I didn’t grow up in rodeo, so this is literally my first NFR,” he said.

On Dec. 3 the PRCA hired Anthony Bartkowski as its director of athlete development and welfare.

Bartkowski’s experience includes development of athletes for the Olympic Games; was once the executive director of USA Boxing before accepting a position as the executive director of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association and Bartkowski has also worked with USA Wrestling and USA Hockey.

“I think the Olympic movement does a particularly good job of developing athletes,” Taylor said.

Taylor noted that the decline of ranches in the United States will require rodeo cowboys who were not raised on a ranch for the sport to grow.

“We’ve got to go to places we don’t necessarily think of,” he said.

Skills from other sports may provide a future in rodeo for some of those athletes.

“A lot of our rough stock guys, their strength to weight ratio is amazing,” Taylor said.

Wrestlers have similar strength to weight ratios – Bareback Riding world champion Tim O’Connell was a high school wrestler – and Bartkowski will attempt to recruit wrestlers into the PRCA.

“They would be great rough stock guys,” Taylor said.

Youth rodeos not only develop skills but allow children to determine whether they would like to participate in the events at higher levels.

“I think there’s significant potential to have more and more people experience the sport,” Taylor said.

When a cowboy begins his career in the PRCA, he does so as a permitholder. A cowboy fills his permit once he has earned $1,000 from PRCA-sanctioned rodeos, allowing him to obtain a PRCA card and have full PRCA membership. The money to fill a permit does not need to be earned in the same event.

“Our permit program has really been successful,” Taylor said.

The smaller rodeos which usually only draw the top cowboys if they are local allow permitholders to earn the money to fill their permits and obtain PRCA cards.

“They are able to start to move forward if Tim O’Connell and Tuf Cooper and those guys aren’t at every rodeo,” Taylor said.

One of the PRCA’s prestigious rodeos is the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo for each circuit’s year-end and finals average champions.

The presence of a circuits system with a championship allows part-time rodeo competitors the opportunity to compete in a national championship rodeo.

In August the PRCA and the Canadian Professional Rodeo Association partnered to create a 13th circuit, the Maple Leaf Circuit, for the 2019 season.

The Maple Leaf Circuit finals and year-end champions will join their American circuit counterparts at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“It’s been great for us to work with them,” Taylor said of partnering with the CPRA.

The PRCA-sanctioned rodeos in Canada allow competitors to earn points towards both the National Finals Rodeo and the Canadian Finals Rodeo.

One element which will need to be addressed is the current National Finals Rodeo qualifying system which is based on total earnings. One dollar is one earnings dollar regardless of whether it is a United States dollar or a Canadian dollar, which as of early December was worth approximately 75 United States cents.

“We’re looking at evaluating whether or not to move to a points basis,” Taylor said.

That would also resolve the issue of PRCA-sanctioned rodeos in Mexico, Brazil, or other countries into which the PRCA expands.  A points system would also ensure that NFR qualifiers are successful at numerous rodeos throughout the year rather than qualifying because they won go-rounds and averages at a few high-paying rodeos.  “Your point system should reflect that,” Taylor said of NFR qualifiers being the top cowboys throughout the year.

Such a change would require approval of the PRCA members.

“They’re working with our membership to work out a way to make that happen,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s work with Caterpillar included heading the company’s NASCAR sponsorship program, so Taylor intends to apply his knowledge of auto racing from the Sprint Cup level to local short tracks and youth kart racing to the sport of rodeo. “Every sport has essentially a pyramid to them, and the top of the pyramid as only as strong as the base of the pyramid,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to all stick together and reach down and reach up. I think we’ll be stronger if we allow ourselves to do it.”

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