The Murray State University Rodeo Club will be hosting their 35th annual college rodeo at the William “Bill” Cherry Expo Center Oct. 28-30.
Speaking on a cell phone Friday morning while at a collegiate rodeo in Troy, Ala., rodeo club coach J. D. Van Hooser said the MSU event is the oldest continuous rodeo in Kentucky. MSU’s team is a member of NIRA (National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association) and is the only collegiate team in the state, he said. There are 11 regions in NIRA with MSU in the Ozark region.
Fifteen teams compete in 10 rodeos each year in this region to earn points to qualify for the CNFR (College National Finals Rodeo) each June in Casper, Wyo. They can earn scholarships for their respective school, as well as cash awards for themselves. Assistant coach Tom Tuck said last year was the first year in recent memory that no one on the MSU team qualified for national finals, but he hoped that the team – or at least some individuals – would qualify this year. Either way, he and Van Hooser will be in Wyoming for several days helping out with the event as they have in the past, he said.
The MSU rodeo club has over 60 members and produces, competes in, and cleans up after they finish hosting the rodeo. Van Hooser said there will be between 250 to 300 rodeo team members competing from 16 or 17 universities across the Ozark region. Not surprisingly, it is quite a big job to host a rodeo, and it costs between $25,000 to 30,000 to put on, he said.
Tuck said he has been volunteering with the club since it was formed in 1976, but he and his wife have been even more involved in the last three years. Partly because rodeo is not a sport recognized by the NCAA, the funding for the club comes entirely through donations and various fundraisers. He said the students in the MSU club come from all over the country and work hard to raise the funds to produce the MSU rodeo. They use any proceeds, after expenses, to provide scholarships and traveling money to attend the other nine out-of-state rodeos each year. Some of the events are up to 500 miles away and Tuck said he is proud of the time the students put in and proud to be a part of it.
“It’s one of most rewarding things I have ever done,” he said.
Each year on the Wednesday before the rodeo, the students invite all special needs classes in Calloway County to the Expo Center for a Special Rodeo. Van Hooser and Tuck said it is an event local children look forward to every year and the rodeo club members also love putting it on for them
“It will bring tears to your eyes watching the joy it brings to these youngsters,” Tuck said.