HAYS, Kan. – When Bronc Rumford took the job as rodeo coach at Fort Hays State University, he understood the priorities that come with it.
“College is all about education, and our rodeo club and our rodeo team is about motivating kids to get an education,” said Rumford, a Fort Hays State alumnus who has overseen the rodeo program for several years. “We give them the opportunity through rodeo to get their education. That’s what college rodeo needs to be about.”
It also is about competition, which will be a big piece of the Fort Hays State University Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 18, and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 19, at Doug Phillip Arena.
“We have one of the toughest regions, if not the toughest region, in college rodeo,” Rumford said. “The depth of the kids’ talent is phenomenal. In the bull riding, we’ve got Sage Kimzey, who not only leads our region but is also the top bull rider in ProRodeo.”
Kimzey is a student at Central Plains Region rival Southwestern Oklahoma State University, and he’s one of many top hands in the game who are expected to display their talents in Hays over the weekend. So how big is the FHSU Rodeo?
“I think there are a lot of people in town who do not have a grasp of what a big economic impact we have with the college rodeo coming to town,” Rumford said. “If we look at this very conservatively, we will have 2,000 people from outside Ellis County that will be in Hays for four days. It’s huge. There are not that many events that have a bigger economic impact on Hays than the college rodeo.”
It’s also a great opportunity for rodeo club members to learn a little more about the sport than just roping and riding. Each member of the club is required to sell at least $1,200 in sponsorships or advertisements in order to financially support the annual event. In addition, some members of the rodeo alumni organization are sponsors or assist in other ways
“Our alumni has really stepped up and has been a big part of our deal,” Rumford said. “It means a lot to us that our alumni are so supportive.”
But they’re not the only support system for the rodeo club or its annual event.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of backing from the university,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the backing we get through the Student Government Association, from the president’s office and the maintenance crew. But that’s what we’re used to at Fort Hays.
“While most other institutions’ enrollment has plateaued or even declined, Fort Hays’ enrollment has gone up. When you look at what we have for our rodeo team, it’s amazing. We’ve got the best practice facilities in the region, and we’ve got practice livestock for every event. We’ve got indoor and outdoor arenas for the kids to practice every day.”
Tickets for each of the three performances are $8 for adults, $5 for children in advance, then $12 and $8 at the gate. Besides the performances, the rodeo alumni group will meet prior to the final performance on Saturday night, when the Doc Brower Scholarship will be awarded.
It will be a fitting way to celebrate the 48th year of the Fort Hays State Rodeo.