By the PRCA
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has announced changes to the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour presented by Justin Boots, effective for the 2012 season.
Under the new format, the field for the Justin Boots Playoffs and Justin Boots Championships will be determined by the PRCA World Standings rather than the tour standings.
The tour standings will now be utilized for a new incentive for contestants that will also take effect for the 2012 season. In addition to the large payouts available at Tour rodeos, cash bonuses will be paid to the cowboys who finish in the top six of the Tour standings in each event at the end of the season.
Eligibility for the bonus money – which will count toward the PRCA World Standings – will be contingent on a rule that contestants cannot enter and then turn out of (withdraw from) more than one tour event during the season.
“The event reps and the board of directors have taken the initiative to restructure the tour, which will make it better in the long run,” PRCA Contestant Director Fred Boettcher said. “I think the biggest positive of this is that guys are going to show up to the Tour rodeos. In the past, sometimes guys would only show up if they drew well, but now they will show up and compete.”
In addition to reducing the number of turnouts at some of the PRCA’s marquee events, the new system is intended to allow cowboys to compete closer to home.
“Anytime the cowboys can rodeo smarter and be able to keep their money together and reduce travel costs, it benefits everybody,” said Spud Duvall, vice chairman of the PRCA board. “We are hoping that, by putting this new system in, it will be good for everybody in the PRCA, from the cowboys to the (rodeo) committees and all of the members.”
While allowing cowboys to rodeo more economically was viewed as an important step, the support of rodeo committees was also integral to the approval of the new system.
“We had communication with six or seven committees on a conference call and told them what we wanted to do,” PRCA Contestant Director Red Lemmel said. “The committees liked the aspect of it helping with the turnouts, because there’s nothing worse than four or five guys in the same event not showing up at a rodeo. This will benefit both the big and small rodeos, because it gives cowboys incentive to hit the smaller rodeos on the way to the bigger ones.”
Dr. R.C. Trotter, president of the Dodge City (Kan.) Round-Up, directs one of the original tour rodeos, and has always used Tour status to his event’s advantage.
“From a fan’s perspective it’s a good thing to be a tour rodeo,” Trotter said. “It says we’re singled out as an elite rodeo. I use it as a marketing tool in my area to separate myself from other rodeos, without having to say I’m bigger and better and have a bigger payout than some of the others. We use the fact that we’re the only Wrangler Million Dollar Tour rodeo in the state of Kansas as a selling point, and that sends a message to the public that we’re special.
“Being part of the Tour pushes us to be better. It motivates us to bring in good stock, good contract acts, and have the best possible payoff. Being a tour rodeo energized this community for us. It’s always a good thing to be part of an elite group, and it gives us a marketing edge.”
The Sikeston (Mo.) Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo is a Silver Tour event on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour.
“The tour has helped us in many ways,” Sikeston General Chairman Chris Deen said. “It’s given us the opportunity to get bigger name cowboys to our event. Not that we didn’t have them before, but it has brought more to us. How much the quality of our rodeo has improved since we’ve been in the tour is unbelievable. Being part of the tour absolutely steps up your game.”
PRCA Contestant Director Bret Tonozzi said the potential boost that could be given to rodeos outside the tour was a strong reason to support the changes.
“The inception of the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour has been a great development for the sport of ProRodeo because of the way it has been able to spotlight some of our best events,” Tonozzi said. “These changes will be beneficial because it will not only improve these events, but it will also be a boost to smaller rodeos, as well.”
PRCA Commissioner Karl Stressman said the changes to the tour format are the result of a collective effort, one that he said will be beneficial.
“We’re trying to listen to everyone and determine what’s best for our sport,” Stressman said. “We have discussed the importance of open communication among our members, and these changes are a direct result of that. Our contestant directors have worked hard to provide us with the information to create a system that benefits contestants and committees alike, and we feel their decision will pay dividends for the association as a whole.”
There are two event designations on the Wrangler Million Dollar Tour: Gold and Silver Tour rodeos. Nine of the 24 tour stops in 2011 were gold events – rodeos that add $20,000 or more in committee purse to the bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping (heading and heeling), saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping and bull riding competitions. The 15 silver rodeos added at least $10,000 in each of those six events, and also feature equal money in the team roping.