For nearly 70 years, college rodeo has been a staple for many institutions throughout the United States. Each year, the best college rodeo teams from across the country send their finest athletes to the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in their quest for top spot in the college rodeo standings. Since 1949, following the end of World War II, college rodeo has been a highly competitive, scholarship-granting sport for many colleges in the country. The 69th annual CNFR took place in June of 2017 in Casper, Wyoming and saw the best male and female students competing in events like bronc and bull riding, roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and goat tying. The following 10 college rodeo teams are the biggest and best in the sport and represent the top choices for many cowboys and cowgirls each year.
For several years now, Walla Walla Community College has been considered a true powerhouse in college rodeo. Even while competing against major four-year universities, Walla Walla Community College has not failed to have at least one competitor in the top 10 of a category at the CNFR since 2001. In the 2017 overall team standings, Walla Walla Community College’s men’s team ranked second and the women’s team ranked third. The men’s team won it all in 2008 and 2012, also scoring in the top 10 from 2009 through 2011. While the Walla Walla Community College Warriors are a well-balanced team, proving competitive in every event, they particularly excel at roping, both team and tie-down categories.
Deep in the heart of Texas in Stephenville, Tarleton State University, a member of the Texas A&M system, has been racking up rodeo accolades since 1947. Despite its smaller student body, Tarleton State has won seven national championship titles, including the 2015 team championship at the CNFR. Over the years the Texans and TexAnns (the school’s cowgirls) have also brought home 24 individual titles. The last few years have seen the Tarleton State men’s rodeo team really stake their claim as one of the top rodeo colleges in the nation, placing second in 2014, first in 2015, and, at the 2017 CNFR, they came close to another team title, placing third in the men’s team rankings.
The basketball team at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) may get the most headlines, but UNLV’s rodeo team has proven themselves to be one of the most formidable and accomplished rodeo colleges in the nation. Since 1993, UNLV has won 15 national college rodeo titles, including the women’s team championships in 2008 and 1999. In the 2017 CNFR, the UNLV women’s team placed fourth overall. Throughout the years, both the men and women have won plenty of individual titles, including five all-around titles and eight single event titles. Additionally, in the West Coast Region, the UNLV rodeo squad has claimed an incredible 26 regional titles.
California Polytechnic State University’s rodeo team, Cal Poly Rodeo, has had a long and successful track record in the sport of college rodeo. The program has earned 44 national titles, which puts it near the top of the most winning programs in the country. The Cal Poly Rodeo program offers courses in beginner’s rodeo and invites both competitive and noncompetitive students to join the club. Since 2001, Cal Poly Rodeo has recorded a number of top-10 finishes as well as six national titles in individual events. Cal Poly also hosts the largest annual college rodeo west of the Mississippi, an event that brings in more than 10,000 spectators to the campus.
There aren’t many college rodeo teams more consistent than the Central Wyoming College (CWC) Rustler Rodeo squad. Since 1996, the Rustler Rodeo squad has won nine national championships in individual events and 10 top-five finishes at CNFR. During that same period of time, the men’s team at CWC has placed in the top 10 of the overall team standings eight times, and the women’s team has been in the top 10 five times. In the Central Rocky Mountain Region, the CWC Rustler Rodeo squads are even more dominant. Over the last 20 years, the men’s team has take first place overall in the region eight times and the women have won it four times. Together, the teams have been in the top two in the region an astounding 23 times out of a possible 40.
Before being unseated by the Mesalands rodeo team in 2011-2012, the New Mexico State University (NMSU) rodeo team was perched on top of the Grand Canyon Region for eight consecutive years. Despite losing their streak, both the men’s and women’s team have remained dominant in the region since then. In the 2017 regional standings, the women hold first place and the men are in second. On the national stage, NMSU is one of the most consistent competitors, capturing two third-place finishes as recently as 2016. Overall, the men’s team placed 10th in 2016 as well. Though they are well-rounded, tie-down roping and team roping are NMSU’s individual event specialties, with their last national title coming in the former in 2011.
Since 1970, the Weber State University (WSU) Rodeo Club has been a mainstay in the school’s extracurricular offerings. The men’s and women’s rodeo teams at WSU are two of the most complete teams in the nation, placing in the top 10 a whopping 38 times at CNFR since 2001. The women’s team has been particularly strong, winning the team championship in 2006 and placing in the top 10 as a team four times over the last 16 years. The women’s team’s primary strength comes in the goat-tying division, while the men’s strength is in tie-down roping and steer wrestling. At the 2017 CNFR, WSU took home another top-five finish in the men’s all-around event.
Active since 1950, the Sam Houston Rodeo Club is one of the oldest student groups on the Sam Houston State University campus. It’s also one of the most successful athletic programs the school from Huntsville, Texas has ever put forward. The club boasts having produced more national championship teams than any other college in America. They took home five national team titles in the ’60s, three in the ’70s, and three in the ’80s. In this current decade, the institution is back to its winning ways, with national titles claimed by the men’s team in 2011. That same year, the women just missed the top prize, placing second on the national stage. The following year, 2012, the men just missed their shot at repeating as champions, placing second in the national competition. At the 2017 CNFR, the teams from Sam Houston State University were outstanding once again. The women took home top prize and the men just missed out on the school sweep of first place, finishing a very close second.
In a short period of time, Mesalands Community College has grown into one of the most competitive college rodeo programs in the country. Though the program is still relatively new, Mesalands Community College has become a perennial top finisher in the Grand Canyon Region. Taking the first overall position in the team standings for the first time in 2011, the Mesalands Community College men’s squad would repeat as regional champions in 2012. The women’s team followed suit in 2013, winning the regional team championship for the first time in their program’s history. At the national finals in 2011, the women placed fourth overall and one of its freshman earned Rookie of the Year honors.
The College of Southern Idaho (CSI) Rodeo Program is not the oldest in the country, but it is one of the foremost. At the regional level, CSI is a leader in the Rocky Mountain Region. In 2015, the men’s team took first place overall in the team competition and won four individual events. The men would go on to take first place in the 2017 regional championship as well. At the national level, the men saw their best results at the turn of the century when they won back-to-back national titles in 2001 and 2002. Recently, at the 2017 CNFR, CSI saw one of their own, Cassie Bahe, put up the best time in the final go in the Breakaway Roping event.