The rodeo is coming to Three Rivers College.
Three Rivers president Devin Stephenson on Wednesday told the community college's board of trustees that the institution will move forward with plans to establish a rodeo team, with competition expected to begin this fall. The institution would be the first community college in Missouri to offer a rodeo program, administrators say.
"This is going to add to our diversity, attracting a new type of student-athlete we have not attracted in the past," said Jason Hoseney, Three Rivers vice president for Student Success. "It's going to attract more students into our ag science program, and this is a unique opportunity to add a sport that reaches out to a population of students that otherwise may not go to college."
Stephenson said the rodeo team is predicted to attract at least 20 members, 15 of whom say they would not have otherwise considered Three Rivers. Among the interested students who were surveyed, most of them indicated an interest in studying agriculture at Three Rivers, with their participation in the rodeo program.
The decision to go ahead with the team follows a public meeting at Three Rivers in February. More than 130 people gathered in the Tinnin Center lobby to show support for and discuss the proposed team, according to a news release.
Hoseney could not provide startup costs for the rodeo program but said the expense of hiring a coach, adding scholarships, membership in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association and travel should be offset by the expected increased enrollments.
Three Rivers' rodeo program is being underwritten by members of the community donating the livestock, equipment and facilities. Between in-kind and monetary contributions, the college has raised about $50,000 for the program, Hoseney said.
"Really it's not as expensive as it may seem when you've got a community such as ours," he said. "We're really in it for a small amount of money for the amount we'll get back in increased tuition."
The Sikeston Jaycees and the Thousand Hills Cowboy Church have stepped in to sponsor and mentor the new team, according to Stephenson.
A good deal of travel will be involved. Three Rivers would be part of an extended conference in the Ozark Region, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.
The rodeo team, including both male and female competitors, would not solve deficiencies in Three Rivers' gender equity program, Hoseney said, because the competitive association is not part of the community and junior college athletic system. Three Rivers is making progress in meeting the equity issues but remains short of the mark in women participants in athletics, Hoseney said.
The college rodeo circuit is different than the usual collegiate sport. Athletes compete for prize money.
"The best college rodeo participants have professional cards, and can compete in the pro circuit as well," Hoseney said.
Austin Oberman, a graduating high school senior at Delta High School, was recognized as the first scholarship recipient for Three Rivers Rodeo. Oberman is the 2011 Bareback Champion of the Seven-State Rodeo Challenge held recently in Memphis, Tenn.
2080 Three Rivers Blvd., Poplar Bluff, MO