Elite Rodeo Association circuit begins inaugural season in new year

From left, Wade Sundell, Bobby Mote, Fallon Taylor and Trevor Brazile watch a video explaining the Elite Rodeo Association (ERA) of which they are a part of. Paul Moseley Star-Telegram


ERA tour will offer condensed schedule, bigger payouts

Many of rodeo’s top athletes already in the fold

PRCA taking measures to exclude anyone with ERA ownership


Special to the Star-Telegram 

Throughout more than three decades of covering the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, I have continually been alarmed at a troubling fact: the PRCA’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas is fantastic, but its regular season has way too many potholes and detours.

The National Finals, which concluded earlier this month, offered competitors a record $10 million purse for the 10 consecutive nights of competition. 

But in order to earn a spot among the top 15 in each standard rodeo event and qualify for the National Finals, a cowboy may have to work as many as 100 rodeos across North America — from smaller shows paying as little as $1,000 for an event winner to ones with as much as a $10,000 top prize.

As a result, the sport’s elite have been occasionally trying to form some type of “all-star” circuit requiring less travel, but with more prize money at each stop.

The latest group is called Elite Rodeo Athletes, which is scheduled to launch its inaugural season in 2016. The $4.6 million tour has scheduled stops in eight cities including Albuquerque and Atlanta, plus a Nov. 9-13 championship show at Dallas’ American Airlines Center. 

The ERA will feature an array of big timers such as 23-time world champion Trevor Brazile of Decatur and four-time gold buckle winner Bobby Mote of Stephenville. 

The ERA competitors plan to compete on the new tour in addition to riding on the PRCA’s circuit throughout 2016, but the PRCA has aggressively reacted by changing its bylaws. The PRCA is stating that anyone who has an ownership share in the new enterprise will not be able to purchase a PRCA membership in 2016, which includes Brazile and Mote. 

Consequently, the ERA fired back with an anti-trust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Dallas. A hearing is scheduled for today.

If the PRCA wins, fans might not watch Brazile and a host of other big names compete at the Fort Worth Stock Show and other traditional PRCA shows. 

If the ERA wins, fans still will watch the top competitors ride at some of the biggest rodeos in the country, including Fort Worth and San Antonio, as they attempt to earn a berth in the National Finals. 

The 2016 ERA circuit resembles the early stages of the Professional Bull Riders tour that was launched in 1994. In the PBR’s early years, its founders exceled in both the PRCA and the PBR at the same time. 

At the time, the PRCA’s organizers did not take the PBR seriously and refused to work with them. They paid a big price as the PBR experienced burgeoning growth and became pro bull riding’s dominant league. 

Today, the PBR offers the same type of format that the ERA is attempting to form for the stars of the other standard rodeo events. 

My challenge to PRCA organizers: Instead of going all out to shut down the ERA in a lawsuit, put your energy into offering pro rodeo’s elite a more compact, higher-paying regular season so they won’t continually feel like they must go outside of your borders to receive what they deserve.

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