‘Daddy issues’ some calf ropers and steer wrestlers boycott CFD
As Cowboy Christmas kicked off with endless rodeos, some of the cowboys are driving past a big one. The top 50 tie-down ropers and many of the top steer wrestlers are boycotting Cheyenne Frontier Days’ rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyo., after a change in format was enacted this year.
In past years, athletes competed in two rounds, hoping to qualify for the short-go, in which 12 contestants with the best times over the entire week qualified. In the new tournament style, the best contestant of the day gets an automatic spot to the short round, much like other large rodeos such as The American, Houston, San Antonio and Calgary. This allows fans to see a clear winner from that day at the “Daddy of them all.”
For the first time, CFD will also be televised on the Cowboy Channel, increasing the purses in each event from $50,000 to $65,000.
Rough-stock contestants tend to favor the tournament format whereas timed-event athletes have made it clear they don’t appreciate this change to the “Daddy of ‘em all.” Hunter Herrin, a nine-time tie-down roping NFR qualifier, has been vocal about the changes.
“We have to rope five times instead of three, like we used to, and while they added money, it ends up being less,” he said. “If you win all five rounds this year, you would make less than if you had won all three rounds last year. You’re working more for less money.”
The additional rounds Herrin is referring to are a result of slack for the timed events, in which the top 40 will move on to two regular performances in hopes of qualifying for the short round. Rough stock events won’t have this slack since they cap the amount of contestants at a far lower number at 72, instead of calf ropers’ 150.
“We like this format. The horses brought by a contractor tend to be similar, so the horses will be different from another contractor on another day,” said Steven Dent, also a nine-time NFR qualifier, though in bareback and saddle bronc riding. “It’s also hard for a judge to remember one ride from days ago and compare other rides to it.”
LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
Tournament style also levels the playing field in terms of weather and arena conditions during the nine-day rodeo. One day might be sunny and still, while another might experience a downpour. With the new format, the contestants are battling those who compete in similar weather as they do.
For roughstock competitors, the top four from each of the six performances will qualify for the semifinals and earn money. At the start of Sunday’s finals, times and score start over from zero.
Dent appreciates that he receives a clear “yes” or “no” in terms of qualification, whereas Herrin argues that the new format makes it harder to plan for other rodeos happening during the same week, such as Salinas, Calif.; Nampa, Idaho; Ogden and Spanish Fork, Utah; and Deadwood, S.D.; since they won’t know exactly when they are to compete.
The long arena in Cheyenne wears on horses over five performances as well, Herrin said, but he said he and other calf ropers and steer wrestlers are less frustrated with the CFD, and more-so with the presiding organization, the PRCA.
“They came to us and asked us what we thought then didn’t listen,” he said. “We want to have a say.”
In a statement Tuesday, July 1, CFD CEO Tom Hirsig said, in part, “We understand that goals are set for this year and some contestants could not making the timing and logistics of this new format work for 2019 … For less experienced fans, slack is complicated, and it is hard to explain what the average means — or why if someone wins on Monday, they are not in the Sunday finals … We hope it benefits not just CFD, but the entire sport of rodeo. It may take time for contestants to reap the benefits, but we are confident that future generations will enjoy the rewards.”
CFD has also added a women’s breakaway roping this year with 244 participants. ❖