Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association
The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) is an organization whose members compete in rodeos throughout North America, primarily in the United States. The PRCA sanctions rodeo venues and events through the PRCA Circuit System. Its championship event is the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The PRCA is headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
The organization was created in 1936 when a group of cowboys walked out of a rodeo at Boston Garden to protest the actions of rodeo promoter W.T. Johnson, who refused to add the cowboys' entry fees to the rodeo's total purse. Johnson finally gave in to the cowboys' demands, and the successful "strike" led to the formation of the Cowboys' Turtle Association. That name was chosen because, while they were slow to organize, when required they were unafraid to stick out their necks to get what they wanted, like turtles might do. Among the organizers was a woman, a four-time national bronc champion, Alice Greenough Orr. In 1945, the Turtles changed their name to the Rodeo Cowboys Association, and in 1975, the organization became the PRCA.1 The PRCA staff consists of about 70 full-time employees, but grows to nearly 100 during the peak rodeo season. The PRCA headquarters, established in 1979 in Colorado Springs, also houses the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy.1
A performer must qualify in his or her regional circuit to move on to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo (RNCFR), held every year from 1987-2010 in Pocatello, Idaho, before moving to Oklahoma City in March 2011. The top two contestants in each of the seven rodeo events from the 12 different PRCA regional circuits compete in the four-day championship event held in Oklahoma City. Points are achieved for the top competitors in each of the circuit rodeo events held throughout the year. The winner in each event at the RNCFR is the national circuit finals champion for that event. In addition to the eight individual event winners, there is also an overall champion titled the All-Around Cowboy. All eight winners receive the National Circuit Championship gold belt-buckle. Ram (formerly Dodge) has been the title sponsor of the NCFR since 1991. The championship round of the RNCFR is broadcast on Great American Country.
Since 2003, the PRCA has sanctioned events that feature bull riding alone called the Xtreme Bulls tour. These events are held in conjunction with less than a handful of the PRCA's several hundreds of rodeos annually. The top 40 bull riders in the PRCA standings compete in select rodeo arenas in a one day competition, and the top 12 riders based on scores come back to the championship round. The rider with the most points on two bulls wins the event. The PRCA crowns an Xtreme Bulls tour champion every year. This is the bull rider who won the most money on tour. The Xtreme Bulls tour championship event has been held at the Ellensburg Rodeo arena for several years. The Xtreme Bulls Division I events are broadcast on Great American Country.
The top 15 money winners in each PRCA discipline (including the top 15 "headers" and "heelers" in team roping) earn a trip to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, commonly called the National Finals or NFR. The NFR is held in Las Vegas, Nevada every December and airs live on Great American Country. Rodeo action is held over 10 consecutive days at the National Finals, with the top money winner for the year crowned the year's champion in each discipline at the end of the NFR. Because of the large amount of money (6.25+ million dollars) at stake in the NFR, the leaders in each event going into the NFR are often dethroned for the year's championship at that event.
8 events and 10 championships are sanctioned by the PRCA:1
- Bareback riding
- Steer wrestling - also known as bull dogging
- Team roping - Divided into "Headers" and "Heelers" in 1995
- Headers - Cowboys who rope the steer's head
- Heelers - Cowboys who rope the steer's hind feet
- Saddle bronc riding
- Tie-down roping - formerly known as calf roping
- Steer wrestling
- Barrel racing
- Bull riding