Professional rodeo has always been a game of entering. And now that breakaway has “entered” the fray, it’s an even trickier game.
Since 1976, Professional Rodeo Communications (PROCOM) has handled about 700,000 calls per season, averaging more than 2,000 per day when the rodeo schedule peaks in summer. Some 40 call operators crowd the headquarters on Pro Rodeo Drive in Colorado Springs to get everyone entered, randomly drawn, and set for callbacks. The system is fully computerized—including the “buddy system” that allows cowboys to enter a maximum of three other traveling partners or a spouse with their same preference.
For decades, rodeo greats over the Fourth of July lived and died by the availability of pay phones, so they could call the PRCA toll-free and enter rodeos during precise time frames while on the road. Book closings were all that mattered. If you didn’t get entered, obviously, you couldn’t win.
Automatic redial made the entering game faster for athletes to get around the busy signals coming from headquarters. Then came mobile phones, just as the administrative offices of professional rodeo’s largest organization started using snappier software to help PROCOM randomly draw contestants per their performance and slack requests.
Barrel racing had to be treated a bit differently because of its separate sanctioning body’s limits, fees and payout schedules, but the WPRA gals could play with PROCOM just fine for the past 45 years. In 2021, however, it became clear the system wasn’t designed with any extra space for an entirely new event.
“We have to treat breakaway as a separate rodeo,” said PROCOM Manager Daidra Sims. “Our system doesn’t allow for both barrel racing and breakaway. So right now, girls have to give two sets of preferences if they want to enter two events. In fact, breakaway entries don’t even open until all of the rodeo’s other entries close.”
The PRCA is literally building this plane as it’s flown, over in Colorado Springs at PROCOM. In fact, if you called to enter the Cody Stampede in the breakaway and then asked for the trade list, your list will erroneously still say “barrel racing.” It’s just the way it is for now. Sims said PROCOM has tried to accommodate the breakaway the best it can, but they’ve had to compromise to make it work.
Good news is on the horizon, however. While the basis for the PRCA’s new entry app is set up on the older system, the PRCA’s Information Technology department is tweaking PROCOM’s software with breakaway in mind. Sims said that it will eventually allow girls to “buddy” and to enter more than one event for the same performance or slack.
“We have an app and we’re building breakaway onto that so we can place them just like we do the barrel racers,” Sims said. “Girls log on through the WPRA website, via the member portal, click on the “entering” icon and it will send them directly to our app. The great thing about the app is that if a rodeo opens at 10 a.m. today and closes at 10 a.m. tomorrow, now you actually have 24 hours during which you can get entered—you’re not stuck calling only during our business hours.”
Finally, entering has truly gone online. It might cost some of those Colorado Springs teenagers their summer PROCOM jobs, but it will make life much easier for professional ropers trying to get down the road.