Throughout the past three decades that I’ve covered the pro rodeo beat, I can’t recall another period of time that’s been more exciting than the past several months.
The excitement began at the December Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas when Trevor Brazile of Decatur earned his 19th world title, a record for the most gold buckles in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Brazile, a roper, finished the 2013 NFR with more than $5 million in career earnings, another PRCA record.
And speaking of the National Finals, it looked like the sport’s equivalent of the World Series might leave Las Vegas after 30 years. For the first time, Las Vegas officials faced serious challengers in their attempt to retain the contract.
The present NFR contract ends this year, and the new contract lasts from 2015 to 2024. PRCA officials challenged Las Vegas to offer a substantial increase in prize money to keep the new contract, but Las Vegas officials initially refused. In short, the PRCA found two other cities — Dallas and Orlando — to agree to offer the bigger bucks.
But after mulling it over, Las Vegas officials in late January reasoned that the NFR was well worth keeping and agreed to ante up. Under the new contract, the purse will jump from this year’s $6.375 million to $10 million in 2015.
Another big bright spot was RFD-TVs The American, which was March 2 at Arlington’s AT&T Stadium. Organizers offered the sport’s elite riders $2 million, the highest payout for a one-day, single performance rodeo.
Fans witnessed bareback bronc rider Richmond Champion, a 21-year-old Tarleton State junior agriculture major, earn a $1.1 million prize after turning in a final-round score of 90.
The Professional Bull Riders offered a seven-figure paycheck on the same weekend at AT&T Stadium. A $1 million bounty was offered to the winner of the March 1 Iron Cowboy V if he could stay on Bushwacker, the defending world champion bull.
After winning the $50,000 Iron Cowboy V title, Joao Ricardo Vieira, a Brazilian who lives in Decatur, faced Bushwacker in a featured match to cap the performance, but he was bucked off in 2.42 seconds.
It was the second time the PBR has featured a $1 million match ride in its 21-year history. In 2003, former world champion Chris Shivers faced world champion bull Little Yellow Jacket for $1 million in Colorado Springs, Colo. Shivers was bucked off in 1.8 seconds.