UA Rodeo Team Celebrates 79th Anniversary

Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Shelby Bates barrel racing. Photo Credit: Gilson Photo
Tucson’s Rodeo culture has been ingrained in the community and its traditions since 1925 when the first rodeo opened for three days out of the year. Today, with the community setting aside two full weekends for rodeo competitions, the event is more than just entertainment—it’s a part of Tucson life and one of the biggest rodeos in the country. With the rodeo and the University of Arizona playing equally big parts in Tucson’s identity, it’s no surprise that UA students created the first collegiate rodeo team in the United States in 1939.
The team recently celebrated their 79th anniversary with a home rodeo competition on March 17th, combined with a and fundraiser. UA’s team helps support the rodeo culture by getting students involved with the Tucson community and one of its longest, standing traditions.
“The rodeo team is important because it allows students at the U of A to get involved with the community,” says Shelby Bates, the rodeo team’s president and Agribusiness Economics and Management major. “All of our members are able to share their love for rodeo with other students and help them experience it. It is important to raise awareness for our sport, whether that be to draw more people into the rodeo world or to at least allow people to have an open mind to what a rodeo is.”
Bates’ teammate and Biology major, Halle DeWitt, elaborates further, “Rodeo in Tucson is a tradition and way of life. By having our rodeos in Tucson, we are keeping the tradition alive and providing a place for athletes to compete.” The competition consists of nine male and female events. They include everything from bareback riding and breakaway roping to bull riding and barrel racing. All schools in the Grand Canyon Region also compete in a long round then the top ten make it to compete in a short round. The top three of the short round at the end of each season (across the 10 yearly events) qualify for nationals, which are held each June in Casper, WY. The collegiate level, while being full of kind and supportive students, is very competitive. Many students have a goal of becoming a professional rodeo athlete.
“After competing in rodeos at the collegiate level, members are often prepared to begin competing at the pro level. You can only compete at the Tucson Rodeo if you hold a WPRA or PRCA card. To get a card, you must buy a permit and fill it out by winning at rodeos. Once it’s filled, you can compete at rodeos like the Tucson Rodeo. Competing at rodeos like ours in Tucson helps prepare students to go pro,” states Bates.
To compete the students have anywhere from one to four horses each. They practice on their own time, take care of their horses, and make sure everything is prepared come day of competition. That means that students have to bring their horses to Tucson with them when they enroll at UA, and they need facilities to board their horses. The team is currently fundraising for updated facilities for their horses and training.
“The new stalls will be built at the West Campus Agriculture Center, commonly known as the Feedlot. We are also reaching out to people and businesses in the Tucson area to see if they are interested in supporting the UA Rodeo Team,” Bates says.
The all-day competition was a hit. Students raised money for their club by selling coffee, donuts and water to spectators and hosted 200 competitors and more spectators than in any previous year. The UA team placed during the competition in Team Roping, Goats, Breakaway, and Barrels against institutions such as Central Arizona College, University of New Mexico, Navajo Technical College, and more. They will continue to fundraise year-round to provide support to the team’s horses. To learn more about the rodeo team, visit their Facebook, Instagram or website.
The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is helping the rodeo team with their fundraising efforts. To make a donation, please contact Leanne Doyle by phone or email as listed in the contact section to the right.
Leanne Doyle
(520) 621-7873