Finals Rodeo: CNFR returns
Casper – With a full week of rodeos and events, the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) returns to Casper for its 14th year.
“This year, the CNFR will feature almost 400 college athletes representing roughly 100 schools throughout the U.S.,” comments National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) Commissioner Roger Walters. “These athletes are the very top in each of our different events and represent the top schools.”
As the event returns to Casper, Walters notes that students and the community alike enjoy and see benefits from the event.
Two years ago, NIRA signed a 10-year extension to the contract with the Casper Events Center for the event, so CNFR will be hosted in Casper until 2022.
“The reasons we come back are the venue and the people that we work with,” says Walters. “We cannot ask for a better place or better group of people to work with.”
“I’ve told everybody that we can look the world over and not find a better place for college athletes to come and showcase their talents and ask spectators to go and watch the rodeo than here in Casper” he adds.
Along with the ideal venue, he notes that there are ample opportunities for entertainment in Casper as well.
“Whether you play golf, fish, go to museums or just want to sightsee, all of that is available in Casper,” Walters says. “It is a unique setting, and everyone is so friendly and inviting.”
“All the members of the local CNFR committee are volunteers, and each has a specific area they are responsible for,” says Walters. “This group of people has a ‘yes, we can’ attitude.”
“Everybody backs this event – from local merchants to other sponsors. It is tremendous,” Walters continues. “We love it here, and it has been branded such that our student athletes say they want to qualify to Casper, instead of the finals. That is a big deal.”
At the same time, Walters says that the event provides economic benefit to the Casper community. A study performed by the Casper Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau found that CNFR generates $8.1 million each year that goes back into the community.
“Between local sponsorship and our activities here, we make a big impact on the economy here,” says Walters.
Benefits to students
College rodeo and its programs also provide numerous opportunities for students.
“Rodeo is a sport where you compete as an individual,” comments Walters. “In college, we make it a team effort.”
Six men and four women compete on teams from each college.
“It gives students the ability to compete under pressure, which is important not only in the game of rodeo, but in the game of life,” he explains.
Along with competition and teamwork aspects of the event, Walters notes that rodeo and CNFR provide life skills.
“There are deadlines that have to be met, and students have to be able to take care of their livestock, practice and be able to perform to the best of their ability while keeping up their education,” he continues. “These are life skills.”
Though NIRA is centered on rodeo, Walters emphasizes that the organization supports academic excellence in its students.
“Academics is a very important part of rodeo and what we expect,” he comments. “We use rodeo as a tool to get our student athletes to continue their education.”
“Anytime you deal with college rodeo, you see education,” says Walters. “First and foremost, students have to be academically eligible.”
Eligibility is monitored at the conclusion of each semester, and students must maintain their eligibility to compete at the CNFR.
The NIRA Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, also sponsors $60,000 worth of scholarship money available to students at the event.
“We’d always love to have more scholarships,” comments Walters, who notes that anyone wishing to contribute can contact the organization.
“This year, spectators will be looking at the cream of the crop as far as rodeo athletes from throughout the U.S.,” he explains. “We are very pleased that our rodeo athletes have come here, and we can truthfully say that students have not only qualified from a standpoint of the sport, but academically as well.”
National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association
“The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) was established in 1949, and it has continued since then,” explains NIRA Commissioner Roger Walters. “We are the governing body of rodeo at the collegiate level.”
Walters emphasizes that NIRA differs from most college athletics organizations in several ways.
“We are very unique in the fact that NIRA has both two and four year schools, and they compete on an equal basis,” he says. “Rodeo is the only sport in college that does that.”
Walters continues that student athletes are also allowed to be a collegiate rodeo athlete and a member of the professional rodeo at the same time, providing additional opportunities for students.
Currently, NIRA has 3,600 member students from 131 member schools across 11 regions. Additionally, 52 schools have individuals that rodeo as independents. Because of their broad reach, Walters comments that 1.8 million students are reached by NIRA.
“If you look at a football team, there are only 50 students on the team, but the whole school is involved,” comments Walters. “There are over 1.8 million students enrolled at NIRA member schools.”