My phone has blown up since the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Grievance Committee today decided that Coleby Payne—who has been listed as the 17th-place heeler in the 2023 world standings since regular-season’s end on September 30—will be allowed to count earnings from 76 rodeos instead of the event limit of 75. Since word is out within the Top 15 team ropers and beyond, it feels fair to share the facts as I now know them from trusted sources.
For those of you unfamiliar with what’s going on here, there was a discrepancy at regular season’s end about Payne’s rodeo count, and whether or not the money he won at the Cinch Playoffs, where contestants vied for the Governor’s Cup at the $1 million regular-season finale in Sioux Falls, South Dakota would count.
Sources say Payne was repeatedly assured by PRCA staff that his count of Sioux Falls being rodeo No. 75 was correct. It was later confirmed that a mistake had been made, and Sioux Falls was actually 2023 rodeo No. 76 for Payne. Payne’s Sioux Falls earnings never hit the world standings, and Worley has been 15th all along. That still stood after the PRCA’s annual audit concluded in mid-October. NFR back numbers were released by the PRCA, Worley’s included.
Payne of Stephenville, Texas, who heeled for Clay Smith most of this year, filed a grievance with the PRCA. Multiple sources said the grounds were being told more than once by the PRCA that Sioux Falls would be rodeo No. 75 for him.
Today’s decision was made in Payne’s favor, and again according to multiple sources basically states that because Payne used information from the PRCA, he would be allowed to count money won at 76 rodeos.
Two-time NFR qualifier Worley of Berryville, Arkansas now has the option of filing a grievance of his own to question today’s decision. For those of you who don’t know him, Worley is the son-in-law of Hall of Fame Team Roper Bobby Hurley.
We don’t yet know what the final verdict here will be. Looks to me at this stage of the game like there are three options: Payne’s in and Worley’s out (because Payne’s Sioux Falls money counts, which bumps Worley to 16th), or Worley’s in and Payne’s out (because Sioux Falls does not count), or they take 16 teams.
Before you laugh too hard at that, I’ve now seen it happen three times in other events. In 1991, 16 steer wrestlers bulldogged at the NFR. In 1996, 16 saddle bronc riders rode at the NFR. And just last year, in 2022, there were 16 bull riders on the NFR roster.
We will stay on top of this, and keep you all in the loop as things unfold and more information is available. We did reach out to the PRCA for comment, but there is no official statement from Colorado Springs at this time.