By the time you read this post, you've likely seen top cowboys posting about ERA Rodeo across Facebook. If you've missed it, it's a new association looking to host 15 rodeos, promising just the top talent in the industry across the country with a world championship in Dallas in 2016.
"It's about a different opportunity for the sport with the best guys going against each other every time," said Clay Tryan, three-time heading world champion.
Long-time rodeo sponsorship guru Tony Garritano is at the helm as president and CEO.
"We felt there needed to be a concentrated focus on the best guys in the world," Garritano said. "There needed to be a way to showcase the best talent in the world and there isn't one currently...by maximizing that, I believe we can help rodeo overall. If you showcase the best guys in the world, and they broaden the platform of the sport and increase sponsorship, over time more people will want to participate in the sport. If 1,000 new people get involved, and only 10 will make it to the best level, the other 990 will go to other tours and associations throughout the rodeo industry and help it grow."
Each rodeo will have 10-15 competitors in each event, Garritano said. Bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and bull riding will be included, while steer roping is still being discussed. An age minimum for competitors is also still being discussed, Garritano said.
Trevor Brazile, Jade Corkill, Patrick Smith, Charmayne James, Tuf Cooper, Fred Whitfield, and Bobby Mote, along with Tryan, showed up in support of ERA Rodeo at the Texas State Legislature Monday Feb. 16.
They were in Austin at the Capitol Building because Rep. Cecil Bell Jr. introduced HB 1440, to make the Elite Rodeo Association World Championship eligible for funding through the Texas Major Events trust fund, putting the event on the same level as the Super Bowl, a NCAA Final Four tournament, a Democratic or Republican National Convention and other similarly massive events. The goal is for Dallas to host the Elite Rodeo Association World Championships, with the rest of the 15 tour stops to be released later this summer or in early fall.
"The bill affords the city the opportunity to take the sales tax money raised by the event and be able to split it with the state of Texas and return a portion of the money back to the event," Bell explained. "Some of it can go back into the cost associated with putting on the event, some of it to prizes."
The agreement between the state and the event can mean big dollars going back to the event, Bell added, and will be a five-year commitment staying level across that window. Some agreements between smaller events and the state can be on a declining scale of funding, but giving ERA major event status, the money will stay consistent.
"My motivation is two fold," Bell said. "This is to promote Texas and promote the cities in Texas. And personally, I want to see rodeo said in the same vein as those other events, like the Super Bowl and the World Series, because I believe it's on par with those events."
"The goal of the bill is to bring a world championship to the state of Texas," Holly DeLaune, media representative for ERA, said Monday. "All of the top sports associations have an elite level among its professional athletes, and that's what we're doing here."
The cowboys met in Waco last year, DeLaune said, and have been working on building the association ever since. The qualification system, while apparently already discussed and finalized, is yet to be released, as is the network that will broadcast the regular-season events and five-day world finals.
"It's about opportunity for the athletes," Smith, like Tryan, emphasized. Quoted in the release, Brazile added: “Enhancing the sport of professional rodeo and building something greater for the future generations of rodeo cowboys and cowgirls is the goal of the ERA. We look forward to working with the entire rodeo industry.”
Garritano added that currently, associations are membership based and must cater to their entire membership, while the ERA is able to focus just on the needs of the top 1 percent of cowboys and cowgirls.
DeLaune said she could not yet clarify what is in the works as far as working with the rodeo industry and existing rodeos, but that more information would be announced through ERA Rodeo's website and social media channels as it becomes available.
Spin To Win Rodeo will continue to cover this story as details unfold.