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Holten: Let’s give them some respect

If the Dickinson State University football team beat Ohio State in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national championship football game this year, what would you do? Would you go berserk? I think you would. In fact, most of the...

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If the Dickinson State University football team beat Ohio State in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) national championship football game this year, what would you do? Would you go berserk? I think you would. In fact, most of the country would.
Of course, that’s not going to happen for a variety of reasons. One of which is that DSU does not play in the NCAA. They play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
That’s also why the DSU basketball team is not going to be playing in the NCAA title game and the same with the DSU baseball team, the women’s softball team and the women’s volleyball team.
However, when it comes to rodeo, it’s a whole different story. Because in college rodeo, it’s all one big league and that’s the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association. If you didn’t know it, in that league DSU is one of the “big boys.”
Who else is in that league? Oh, just some little schools like Texas A&M (enrollment 58,577), Iowa State (enrollment 31,387), Mississippi State (enrollment 20,138), Oklahoma State (enrollment 25,962), Colorado State (enrollment 32,236) and Michigan State (enrollment 43,625).
Not to mention a bunch of other schools, like Boise State University, University of Kentucky, University of Tennessee, and even the U.S. Air Force Academy. Each with much greater enrollment numbers than DSU. Big enough to make DSU look like it’s a Volkswagen bug parked next to Ford Motor Co. facilities. And yet, DSU excels.
So what we’ve got here is Davey kicking Goliath’s butt. Except that there are a whole lot of Goliath-sized butts for Davey to kick and still the DSU men’s rodeo team, at midpoint of the current rodeo season, is sitting in sixth place nationally, well ahead of every single university that I mentioned above. Its women’s team is in fourth place.
And why wouldn’t they be there? The men’s team has a steer wrestler by the name of Cameron Morman, from Hebron, who won the NIRA steer wrestling championship last year and is on his way to the Professional Cowboy Rodeo Association Circuit Finals in Florida. Plus, they have Blake Smith, a bareback bronc rider from Zap who was a whisker away from a national title last year. He’s currently sitting second in the nation this year.
On the women’s side, Skye Schaper, from Halliday, is leading the nation in breakaway roping and that’s “nation,” as in the entire U.S.
Oh but USC, Notre Dame and Duke aren’t into rodeo you say. But other schools like Montana State, Idaho State, Wyoming, Kansas State, New Mexico State and Arizona are, and they’ve got enough reserves to recruit Casey Tibbs from the grave if they want to, or bring Ty Murray out of retirement.
So let’s give these DSU rodeo superstars and their coach, Eudell Larsen, some credit. We’ve got rodeo legends growing up right under our noses who deserve a whole lot more attention than we are giving them, and yet so few of us know who they are. If they were sixth in the nation in football and two of the players were all-Americans, we’d be drooling all over them.
Well, you say, rodeo isn’t as popular as the other sports. But, according to Sports Business Daily, professional rodeo is the seventh-most popular sport in the U.S., ahead of golf and tennis. The PRCA’s website states it has about 30 million fans, many of whom annually attend rodeos around the country. Plus more than 3 million fans annually attend Professional Bull Riders events globally, according to statistics supplied by the PBR.
So, that’s all I’ve got. The bottom line is, support DSU rodeo because they are very minimally funded by the state university system and rely on individual contributions.
And support rodeo in the region, in general. It’s our unique heritage.
Holten is the executive director of the North Dakota Cowboy Association and writes a weekly column for The Press.

Holten
Kevin Holten

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