CLAY O’BRIEN COOPER

Spin to Win Rodeo - - Departments - By Clay O’Brien Cooper with Ken­dra San­tos

With guys win­ning $50,000 at the rodeo in Salt Lake City this sum­mer, there’s a con­tro­ver­sial con­ver­sa­tion go­ing on about whether or not big money like that should count to­ward the world stand­ings. No mat­ter where you stand on this sub­ject, I think we can all agree that you have to be in fa­vor of rodeo com­mit­tees cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties at huge pay­offs for cow­boys.

The first rodeo (that in­cludes team roping) to of­fer a big-money pay­off years ago was Hous­ton, and for a num­ber of years money won there counted to­ward the world stand­ings. That meant that at the be­gin­ning of the year, one team hit the jack­pot. They beat ev­ery­one at that one rodeo and ba­si­cally punched their ticket to the NFR. Peo­ple on one side said it shouldn’t count be­cause a team can just get lucky at one rodeo and make the Fi­nals. Oth­ers were in fa­vor of it count­ing, be­cause they were will­ing to take that chance at mak­ing their whole year in one shot and not hav­ing to grind it out all sea­son with the rest of us.

There are al­ways go­ing to be two sides to ev­ery is­sue, and I could ar­gue both on this one. I’ve been in the po­si­tion where I’m on a strong team, we’re pre­pared and the writ­ing’s on the wall that we’re go­ing to do good. So to see a team that’s not as strong get in like that doesn’t seem quite right. I’ve also been the guy who wanted to stay home more. When I’ve been in that boat, an op­por­tu­nity like that gave me the chance to win that one event and not have to travel as much.

I won Hous­ton sev­eral times be­fore it paid $50,000. The time I won it when it did pay $50,000 (in 2013 with Justin Davis), Hous­ton had left the PRCA. It was still all PRCA—PRCA judges, PRCA stock con­trac­tors and the top con­tes­tants in the PRCA—but it was no longer a PRCA rodeo, so it didn’t count. That didn’t quite make sense to me, so was sort of tough to take.

All things con­sid­ered, I say why not count a huge pay­off like Hous­ton or Salt Lake? Ev­ery­body has the same op­por­tu­nity to get there and win. All the big rodeos are limited (en­tries) now, so that’s not par­tic­u­lar to any one rodeo. The (Wran­gler) Cham­pi­ons Chal­lenges only in­clude a few teams. The days of ev­ery­body be­ing able to en­ter all the big rodeos seem to be over. There’s a price to pay to play at the high­est level.

Ju­nior Dees and Tyler McKnight won $50,000 a man at Salt Lake in July, so they’ve both got their first Fi­nals made. The Salt Lake com­mit­tee stepped up, cre­ated a huge pay­off for the cow­boys and I ap­plaud them for put­ting on a rodeo of that mag­ni­tude. I’ve been go­ing to that rodeo for 35 years, and un­der­stand them want­ing that kind of money to count so it’s a big part of the NFR con­ver­sa­tion. They set up a sys­tem for who got to com­pete there, and we all had the chance to qual­ify. It was a com­bi­na­tion of the top 10 teams from this year, the com­mit­tee’s se­lec­tions from teams ranked 11th-35th in the world and circuit lead­ers. I didn’t qual­ify, be­cause I didn’t rope well enough to be in the top 35 at the cut­off date. My only frus­tra­tion is with my­self.

What a great op­por­tu­nity for a cou­ple of young guys like Ju­nior and Tyler. This is their big break. They cap­i­tal­ized on an op­por­tu­nity. So the way I see it, we should cel­e­brate their ef­forts in ful­fill­ing a dream.

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