Tom Smart,
Cole Echols, , from Dodge , TX, rides Lil' America who twisted to the ground and Echols was awarded a re-ride in the bull riding during the opening night of the Days of '47 rodeo in the Energy Solutions Arena July 21, 2015, in Salt Lake City.
This has always been a great rodeo with a great history, and it’s just coming to that next level this week. —Trevor Brazille

SALT LAKE CITY — For more than two decades, bareback rider Bobby Mote endured the grueling travel and demanding schedule of a professional rodeo cowboy.

His talent and commitment earned him four world championship titles, but it also revealed to him ways in which the sport could be improved for competitors, fans and sponsors.

“A typical rodeo schedule for a cowboy is 80 to 100 rodeos in a year,” said Mote, who along with 11 rodeo colleagues across eight events joined together to form Elite Rodeo Athletes (ERA) in February of 2014. “Well, there is only 52 weeks in a year. There’s no way you can’t be driving around like mad.” He said the intense schedule prevented them from spending time with families, connecting with fans and promoting the sport they love.

“At that point, you’re just chasing points,” Mote said at a press conference Monday announcing a partnership with the Days of ’47 Rodeo. “The structure of the system is that you just went to as many rodeos as possible … you did whatever you had to do to get there. For the athlete the net profit wasn’t there.” Mote and 23-time World champion roper Trevor Brazille (who owns the tie-down record at the Days of ’47 Rodeo), three-time world champion roper Tuf Cooper and Payson bull rider Steve Woolsey stood behind rodeo chairman Kem Gardner as he explained the partnership and how it would impact the rodeo, which has been part of the state’s annual Pioneer Days celebration for decades.

First and foremost, the event will not be a sanctioned PRCA rodeo as it’s been in the past. Instead, it will be part of the ERA’s inaugural season, which culminates with a championship in Texas in November.

The first three days will be qualifying rounds for invited athletes hoping to break into the ERA circuit, which boasts 87 veteran athletes with more than 123 world championships among them.

Friday will be a competition featuring the ERA’s circuit athletes, including Mote, Brazille, Cooper and Woolsey. Then on Saturday, the top times and scores from the qualifying rounds will compete against the top ERA athletes in a televised performance at Vivint Arena.

“Usually this week, these world champions … are traveling from rodeo to rodeo and they might be able to stop 30 minutes here or 30 minutes there,” Brazille said. “But we’re here from now until Saturday. … You’re going to see some of the best stock in the world. … You really get to see the best of the best when you come here to the Days of ’47 rodeo. This has always been a great rodeo with a great history, and it’s just coming to that next level this week.”

Brazille and Mote are among the 12 founders of ERA who sued the PRCA for antitrust violations after the longstanding overseer of professional rodeo changed its bylaws to exclude any competitor owning an interest in the ERA. ERA lost that lawsuit, which means those founders, many world champions and stars of the sport, cannot compete in PRCA events or the National Finals Rodeo.

That doesn’t bother Mote as he said those who founded ERA believe it’s a much needed incarnation of the sport for both competitors and fans. He likens it to what bull riders did when they formed the PBR in the ’90s, which only bolstered the sport in both venues, as well as offering bull riders more options in earning a living.

Like the PBR, ERA will give fans more access to the athletes with meet-and-greets before each competition, as well as festivities on the plaza of Vivint Arena that include a petting zoo, mutton busting, mechanical bull riding and various barbecue offerings. Tickets can be purchased online at SmithTix or at ribsandrodeo.com. The competition runs Tuesday-Saturday and begins at 7 p.m.

“It’s exciting,” Mote said. “And that’s what we’re really after. We’re putting the best product together for the fans, which includes the very best action. Friday and Saturday night are going to be the most fast-paced competition anyone has ever seen.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: adonsports