At third out in Fort Worth’s wolfy round of ProRodeo team roping, Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira did what they do best: stretch a steer in clock-stopping fashion.
But, this time, the clock didn’t stop. And that is where the controversy lies.
The scoreboard clock kept running behind the roping boxes, while Driggers headed to the stripping chute behind his steer, and while Nogueira—already aware something had gone awry—rode back up to the boxes with the judges.
As Driggers neared the catch pen, the announcers called out 5.5, while the clock behind the boxes zipped back to 4.5. Meanwhile, their fellow pro team ropers behind the boxes estimated the world champs to have been closer to 4.1 or 4.0—the same time they were on that exact same steer earlier in the week to win the second round of Bracket 7.
“I heard them say 5.5, and I thought no way,” Driggers said. “I saw it say 4.5 and I still didn’t believe it.”
Driggers headed back up the arena to join his partner at the roping boxes, where Tanner Tomlinson and Patrick Smith had already resigned themselves to not backing into the corner. The 2022 NFR average champs knew as well as anybody that a conversation needed to happen.
Conversation ensued, with the PRCA judges, flaggers and contestants while the TV cameras panned to the rodeo clown in the crowd.
“Junior and I weren’t trying to hold up the rodeo or cause any kind of harm to our peers,” Driggers said. “We respect them very much and would never in no way mean to hold up the rodeo—we weren’t icing the kicker if you will. We just know that in those situations, a decision has to be made prior to the next team’s run, regardless of the decision, one has to be made. The judges were talking back and forth to the office via radio, and as soon as they gave us the decision, we left the arena so those guys could have a fair shake at it, as this is the second-largest steer of the regular season second to the Houston short round.”
Jolee Jordan, a regular Team Roping Journal contributor, NFR barrel racer and ProRodeo timer was by the boxes. She was verifying the results with the judges via line sheets, as she’d switched out timing responsibilities for the team roping with other regular, reputable timers Kathi Myers and Shelly Baumann.
“The scoreboard didn’t stop,” Jordan said. “There are two timers connected to the scoreboard, and they both malfunctioned. Shelly knew her time was off, too, so she declared that right away. It because a judges call at that point, and the judges agreed that Shelly’s time wasn’t accurate. She thought she was slow, and it was the judge’s job to make the determination from there.”
R10.3.6 Failure of Official Time to Start. If official time has not started,
contestant or team will receive stock which contestant originally
drew if contestant has qualified on that stock. If barrier was
obviously beaten, the barrier penalty will be applied to the rerun.
R4.10.2 Timing. Two hand-held digital watches must be used in the timed
events. One hand-held watch should be operated by each timer.
All digits beyond tenths will be ignored. Official time shall be the
average of the two times, ignoring any digit beyond the tenths. All
times in the timed events are to be recorded in 10ths of a second.
If one of the two Timers misses the start or stop or is delayed in
starting or stopping the watch, or if the watch used by one Timer
malfunctions, that Timer shall declare the problem to the other
Timer and only the time recorded by the other Timer will be used.
One of four watches caught the time, and the one that did, the timer knew it was too slow. PRCA rules line out what to do when the first clock fails, but there’s nothing on the books dictating what happens when all four clocks miss the run. PRCA Rule 10.3.6 demands that contestants re-run the steer they originally drew if a re-run is demanded, but big rodeos—especially tournament-style rodeos like Fort Worth—installed a ground rule to force ropers to run the extra instead on a rerun. That eliminates the time needed to run the steer back around, delaying the rodeo and slowing the action down for the crowd who wants to see the winner without confusion and delay.
“We all feel bad,” Jordan said. “We’re there trying to do the very best job we can so that we don’t have mistakes. I felt bad because they made a great run on that first one. I don’t know where they would have landed. It’s impossible to guess after the fact, and there’s no way to go back under ProRodeo rules anyway. I am proud of our team for the honesty and integrity they showed in this situation. Rather than try to manufacture a time they knew was not accurate, they declared the mistake, which allowed for the next-best solution—which was the rerun.”
The team of timers at the 2023 Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo is exceptionally experienced. Jordan, Baumann and Myers time most all of the WCRA majors, as well as other major PRCA rodeos throughout the year. Myers is a former WPRA president, while Baumann times the National Finals of Steer Roping.
“This is something that can happen once if you time thousands of rodeos,” PRCA team roping rep Matt Sherwood said. “I’ve seen this happen before, but only ever in slack.”
Driggers and Nogueira took the re-run, running back the extra steer they were out of the money with on their first run in their bracket. The steer wasn’t as good, of course, but he was as close to the rest of the pen as possible without having been part of that set.
Driggers stuck it on him fast, but Nogueira picked up a leg to be 3.9-plus-5, putting them fourth worth $4,000.
“I’m mad at myself,” Nogueira said. “I should have roped the second one and finished it. I got too close, but I was trying to get around that steer.”
The error shifted the momentum of the round, with eventual winners Andrew Ward and Buddy Hawkins knowing they had to go for it with Driggers and Nogueira having a rerun with something to prove at last out. The result was a smoking 3.9-second run from Ward and Hawkins, and a mistake from Nogueira.
Fort Worth jumped Ward and Hawkins ahead of Driggers and Nogueira in the world standings as the winter rodeos heat up.
“The beautiful thing for those guys, and they’re not thinking this now: that team didn’t need to win this rodeo to make the National Finals or win the world championship,” Hawkins said. “Whether we’re ahead of them or not, they’re going to be heating them up all year. This will just be motivation for them to do better.”
And Hawkins is right with that assessment.
“I would like to congratulate Andrew and Buddy on their win,” Driggers said. “They are great role models for our sport and highly respected. At first, Junior and I were upset after we made a flawless run and then asked to have to repeat it. I believe that anyone would be. But there was no time to dwell on it, as we needed to regain focus and get ready to run our second steer. The competitor came back out in us, and we were ready to attack again. We have no ill will towards anyone. Was it a tough break? Absolutely it was. But no different than us, they are human, and people make mistakes. I have no hard feelings to anyone, I appreciate them very much for acknowledging their mistake and allowing us another attempt. They are noble for that and very much appreciated. If you have ever listened to any of Junior and I’s interviews, you have heard ‘It is all in GOD’S timing’ many times. So with that being said that’s not just the case when we are doing good. It is also very valid in the shortfalls as well. I’m very proud of my team and everyone who has reached out to us to console us. But today is a new day, and we are working on being better than yesterday.”