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College Rodeo

From Show to Sport

By Sylvia Gann Mahoney; Foreword by Tuff Hedeman

Publication Year: 2004

Guts and glory, bulls and barrel racing, spurs and scars are all part of rodeo, a sport of epic legends. Cowboys and cowgirls use brain and brawn to contend for prizes and placement, but more often than not, it is the prestige of honorable competition that spurs them on. College Rodeo covers the history of the sport on college campuses from the first organized contest in 1920 to the national championship of 2003. In the early years of the twentieth century, a growing number of kids from farms and ranches attended college, many choosing the land grant institutions that allowed them to prepare for agricultural careers back home. They brought with them a love for the skills, challenges, and competition they had known—a taste for rodeo. The first-ever college rodeo was held at the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. It offered bronco busting, goat roping, saddle racing, polo, a greased pig contest, and country ballads from a quartet. The rodeo was a fund-raising effort that grew enormously popular; by its third year, the rodeo at Texas A&M drew some fifteen hundred people. The idea spread to other campuses, and nineteen years later, the first intercollegiate rodeo with eleven colleges and universities competing was held in 1939 at the ranch arena of an entrepreneur near Victorville, California. Seldom does a college sport exist for eighty years without having a book written about it, but college rodeo has. Sylvia Gann Mahoney has written the first history of the sport, tracing its growth parallel to the development of professional rodeo and the growth of the organizational structure that governs college rodeo. Mahoney draws on personal interviews as well as the archives of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and newspaper accounts from participating schools and their hometowns. Mahoney chronicles the events, profiles winners, and analyzes the organizational efforts that have contributed to the colorful history of college rodeo. She traces the changing role of women, noting their victories that were ignored by much of the contemporary press in the early days of the sport. College Rodeo highlights outstanding individuals through extensive interviews, giving credit to the pioneers of college rodeo. This book includes rare photographs of rodeo teams, champions, and rodeo queens, blended with the true life details of sweat and tears that make intercollegiate rodeo such a popular sport.

Published by: Texas A&M University Press

Contents

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pp. vii-

Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-

It’s about time someone put together a comprehensive account of the history of college rodeo, and with more than a quarter century of experience in the sport, Sylvia Mahoney is the perfect person to do it. A former rodeo coach and the wife of my college rodeo coach, John Mahoney, Sylvia knows this sport top to bottom, from every angle. This book is the first of its kind and is long...

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Preface

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pp. xiii-xvi

Seldom does a college sport exist for more than eighty years without having a book written about it, but college rodeo has. The extent of available information for research consisted of brief references in college yearbooks, rodeo history books, and museums. The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s (NIRA) home page on the Internet had a limited amount of background...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xvii-xviii

The history of the writing of this book is a trail of people who gave me their time, their expertise, their treasures, their college rodeo knowledge, their history, and their friendship...

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Chapter 1. College Rodeo Produces a New Breed of Cowboy

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pp. 3-21

“Look at that cowboy. He’s wearing a college ring!” said a city visitor at abranding on the McElroy Ranch near Crane, Texas, in the 1930s.1 Some seventy years later, many cowboys and cowgirls wore college rings and trophybuckles. A new breed of rodeo cowboy and cowgirl developed on collegecampuses and intertwined with the development of professional rodeo...

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Chapter 2. NIRA Creates a New Vision and a National Finals

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pp. 22-46

In the late 1940s the number of annual invitational intercollegiate rodeos grew as did the desire to establish a national organization to determine national champions. This organization could also standardize rules and set eligibility, contestants’ conduct, prizes, and lead to recognition as a college sport. The ideahad been bantered around at many college rodeos...

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Chapter 3 1950s—Rodeo Tested on College Campuses

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pp. 47-79

The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association moved rodeo onto college campuses promoting it as a sport, but without institutional funding. During the 1950s the NIRA student officers struggled with financial instability and rapid change in leadership caused by graduation. The loss of the older, experiencedwar veterans, the constant change in leadership, and the lack of...

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Chapter 4 1960s—NIRA Tested and Nomadic Finals

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pp. 80-104

The 1960s began with two college rodeo associations instead of one. In 1959 a group of disgruntled cowboys and faculty sponsors had split from the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) and formed the American College Rodeo Association (ACRA). Compromise resolved the issues thatseparated the two organizations, resulting in one organization, a stronger,...

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Chapter 5 1970s—Powerhouse Universities, Champions, and Change

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pp. 105-132

The new rodeo training ground, college rodeo, produced subtle but positive changes in the 1970s in its own organization, which also affected professional rodeo. College administrators mellowed toward college rodeo programs as scholarships advanced them. Strong personalities along with a nationally known celebrity spread the well-kept secret of college rodeo; however, without a...

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Chapter 6 1980s—Sponsors and Superstars

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pp. 133-166

The strong economy, the increasing number of rodeo programs at community colleges, and the quality of competition expanded the national organization during the 1980s. Contestants started driving better rigs and practicing to push the competitive advantage. Instead of one shared horse, most hauled a horse for each event they entered. With scholarships provided by sponsors and...

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Chapter 7 1990 to 1996—Independence and Photo-Finish Finals

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pp. 167-193

As the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) approached the final decade before its golden anniversary, it continued a stable growth pattern. However, change brought by deaths and retirements took its toll on the organization...

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Chapter 8 1997 to 2003—A College Sport and Big Business

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pp. 194-220

The twentieth century ended with college rodeo contestants pushing the competitive edge and the NIRA becoming a big business. The accomplishments continued in spite of the earlier contestants’ records that seemed unbeatable.The NIRA was knowledgeable, experienced, and independent, although not independently wealthy. It was branching into areas of service to its members,...

Appendix A First Intercollegiate Rodeo, 1939

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pp. 221-225

Appendix B First Meetings to Organize NIRA, 1948-49

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pp. 227-230

Appendix C Miss College Rodeo

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pp. 231-232

Appendix D Charter Board of Directors of NIRA Alumni

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pp. 233-

Appendix E First NIRA National Champions and Contestants

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pp. 235-242

Appendix F College and University NIRA National Champions

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pp. 243-269

Appendix G NIRA Team Championship Records, 1949-2003

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pp. 271-

Appendix H NIRA National Champions, 1949-2003

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pp. 273-295

Notes

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pp. 297-309

Bibliography

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pp. 311-320

Index

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pp. 321-350


E-ISBN-13: 9781603446310
E-ISBN-10: 1603446311
Print-ISBN-13: 9781585443314
Print-ISBN-10: 158544331X

Page Count: 378
Illustrations: 60 b&w photos.
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Centennial Series of the Association of Former Students, Texas A&M University

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Subject Headings

  • National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association -- History.
  • Rodeos -- United States -- History.
  • College sports -- United States -- History.
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