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 top-of-the-line multiple-event rodeos on the continent, in about 38 states and three or four 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. Here are some key facts about participants in ProRodeo and the PRCA:
Fans. More than 35 million people identify themselves as fans of ProRodeo, and many of them 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 CBS Sports Network, the PRCA’s ProRodeo Sports News magazine and ProRodeo.com, as well as other rodeo-related media outlets.
Competition. 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 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 windfall and athletic glory. Also unlike most sanctioned professional sports, the hundreds of “playing fields” – rodeo arenas – of PRCA-sanctioned rodeos vary widely. The size, shape, perimeter of an arena, as well as the chute configuration and whether it’s indoors or outdoors, all significantly 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 fairest way to measure cowboys’ success in competition across the varied settings is by earnings. The total payout at PRCA rodeos in 2015 was $46,349,782.
Cowboys. The PRCA’s membership includes nearly 5,000 cowboys (including permit holders), who comprise the majority of the association’s roster, as well as about 1,000 contract personnel (performers and workers). The largest 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 one $6-million earner, four $3-million earners and more than 100 million-dollar earners, yet most of its competing members participate in fewer than 30 rodeos each year. Read more about individual athletes in the ProRodeo Cowboys chapter of this book.
Permit system. Cowboys who want to apply for membership in the PRCA must first obtain a permit card and then earn at least $1,000 at PRCA-sanctioned rodeos; there is no time limit to “fill” the permit. Money won under a permit card counts toward circuit standings, but not toward world standings or rookie standings. (A rookie is a cowboy in his first year as a PRCA card-holding contestant.)
World champions. “World champion” is the most coveted title in ProRodeo. The sport’s world champions are crowned at the conclusion of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER, based on total season earnings at PRCA rodeos across the continent, including monies earned at the Wrangler NFR (see the next section of this chapter). The PRCA crowns eight world titlists; each receives a gold buckle and a specially crafted trophy saddle. The 2015 PRCA world champions had season earnings ranging from $227,672 to $518,011.
Stock contractors. All PRCA rodeo events involve livestock, and the care of those animals falls to the stock contractors who buy or breed them, raise them, feed them, watch over them, provide medical care when necessary and transport them safely between rodeos and their home pastures. PRCA stock contractors agree to follow more than 60 rules providing for the care and humane treatment of livestock – the toughest standards in the industry – and constantly look for ways to improve their husbandry, knowing that best practices produce top-performing livestock. Read more in the PRCA and Livestock Welfare section of this chapter.
Judges. There are at least two judges at every PRCA rodeo who have attended judging seminars and are trained to ensure that all results of competition and livestock welfare are followed. During the timed events, each judge has a different role; during the roughstock events, the judges are on opposite sides of the cowboy and animal, watching for the cowboy’s control of the ride and how well his timing is synced with the animal’s bucking motion, among other scored aspects of a ride that can be different on the two sides.
Contract personnel. The noncontestant personnel working a rodeo include the bullfighters, who help bull riders escape from powerful rodeo bulls; the barrelmen, clowns and specialty acts, who entertain the crowds; pickup men, who help bareback and saddle bronc riders dismount, then prepare and assist bucking stock to leave the arena; announcers, who call the action; arena secretaries, who handle extensive administrative duties; and timers, who operate the clocks for the timed and roughstock events. Read more about some of these types of contract personnel in the Announcers, Clowns/Bullfighters/Barrelmen and Specialty Acts chapters of this book.
Committees. Local rodeo committees organize the PRCA-sanctioned rodeos held across the continent. Most are run by dedicated groups of volunteers who make the rodeos work from behind the scenes, procuring local sponsors for events, awards and programs; setting up safe facilities; staffing various functions and making the contestants and attendees feel at home. Many PRCA rodeos are broadly involved in their communities in both service and fund-raising areas. For a list of 2015 PRCA-sanctioned rodeos by state, see the Records and Statistics chapter of this Media Guide.
Charities. PRCA-sanctioned rodeos annually raise more than $16 million for local and national charities, from college scholarships for local students to the Tough Enough to Wear Pink campaign against breast cancer. Contact the PRCA Media Department at 719.528.4713 for more information.
FanZone. The ProRodeo FanZone is the official fan club of the PRCA. Among the many membership benefits: access to an exclusive website with blogs, a forum, a photo gallery and a behind-the-scenes look at the world of ProRodeo; exclusive contests and giveaways for members only; and a welcome package containing a variety of FanZone merchandise and other exclusive items from PRCA national sponsors. Learn more at ProRodeoFanZone.com.
Sponsors. The PRCA’s loyal national sponsors support all aspects of rodeo, from entire events like the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER; the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo; the Wrangler Champions Challenges presented by Justin Boots; and Justin Boots Playoffs and Championships presented by Wrangler; to the Montana Silversmiths gold buckles awarded to world champions each year. Read more in the PRCA National Partners chapter of this book. Sponsors also help defray the costs of producing rodeos and support contestants in their efforts to climb the ranks of ProRodeo.
Demographics. The PRCA’s 5.4 million loyal rodeo attendees across the U.S. are about 49 percent male and 51 percent female; 51 percent have household income of $50,000 or more and 70 percent own their own homes. ProRodeo fans come from all walks of life, but as a group, they are demographically similar to NASCAR fans, and are likely to also enjoy hunting, fishing and camping.
ProRodeo.com. 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 presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Read more on page 16.
Television. Each December sees live telecasts of all 10 performances of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER. In 2015, the Wrangler NFR, the Justin Boots Playoffs and Championships presented by Wrangler, the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo, the Wrangler Champions Challenge events and the All American ProRodeo Finals are telecast by CBS Sports Network. Division I PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour stops are webcast live on www.wranglernetwork.com.