The rodeo team at Texas A&M University-Commerce will put its best boot forward as it prepares to host the first home rodeo in the nearly six-year history of the program.
The rodeo will take place on February 21-22 at the Hopkins County Civic Center, located at 1200 Houston Street in Sulphur Springs. Nearly 20 teams are expected to compete against A&M-Commerce, including Texas A&M, TCU, Sam Houston State University and more.
The program has come a long way since its start in 2014, when current Head Coach Dameon White began leading the new team. White said that this was not his first go-around with starting a new team.
“I started the team at Panola College, and while there, I met Dr. Edward Romero, who was the advisor for the rodeo program before it became a full team,” White said. “I saw the opening here and wanted to jump at the opportunity since I was going to school at A&M-Commerce at the time.”
The rodeo team competes in the Southern Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA), traveling across the southern United States for competitions. White says that the team competes five times each semester, and those who perform well enough can qualify for the National Championship Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, which is held during the summer.
“This has been a strong group of students right from the start,” White said. “I have had someone on the team qualify for Nationals every year since the program started.”
They have competed well this season also. The 34-member team, which is split between men’s and women’s squads, are ranked in the NIRA standings. The men are ranked No. 25 in the country, while the women stand as the No. 5 ranked team. The A&M-Commerce women have won four of the five rodeos they have participated in this season.
The team features students from diverse walks of life, which White says breaks the stereotypes associated with the team.
“Plenty of people think that all of them are ag students, but that’s not true,” White said. “I have students majoring in psychology, criminal justice, nursing and plenty of others.”
Competitions in a college rodeo include tie-down roping, barrel racing, steer wrestling and goat tying, among a host of others. Competitors are either timed or awarded a score for their performance, which is then calculated for a team score.
According to White, hosting a rodeo so close to home is a big statement, and one that has been a long time coming.
“I was lobbying to host a rodeo the first year I was here,” White said. “It took me almost six years, but we finally got one.”
He added that one of the biggest hopes he has for this event is to educate the student and local population about the team and to show what they are capable of.
“The biggest challenge has been education and getting people to realize that, yes, A&M-Commerce has a rodeo team,” White said. “These students are athletes, but they also have to take care of the animals they ride, too.”
For more information about the rodeo team or to view competition results, visit new.tamuc.edu/rodeo.