Photo by Tristen Hutchings.

Under the Radar Activity | Small/Mid Market

Sul Ross State University Rodeo (Alpine)

College Rodeo is perhaps only “under the radar” when compared to the massive audiences of the top NCAA sporting events, as it has a storied history and carries its own enthusiastic and dedicated following.

Sul Ross State University is rightly proud of its status as the Birthplace of College Rodeo. Informal rodeo competition between colleges began in the 1940’s with the first-ever College Rodeo held at Sul Ross in 1945. The National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA) was officially formed at Sul Ross in 1949, and the University dominated the field in the early years, taking home the first three national titles.

Since NIRA’s founding, SRSU Rodeo has won 26 individual and 9 team national championships. The team had a long dry spell through the 1990s and 2000s, but its fortunes took a turn with the arrival of current Rodeo Coach CJ Aragon in 2018. Under Aragon’s leadership, the SRSU Rodeo program has grown dramatically and attracted top talent.

Unlike stringent NCAA rules, NIRA athletes are not barred from professional competition, so it may come as a surprise to learn that competing college athletes can simultaneously be top-ranking pros.

In 2022 and 2023, SRSU’s Tristen Hutchings made college rodeo history by being the first Bull Rider to win two NIRA National Championships in a row – and at the same time he ranked as the 3rd best Bull Rider in the world under the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) standings.

Other NIRA champions from SRSU with stellar pro rankings include Bareback Rider Cole Franks and Bull Rider Ky Hamilton, who have each ranked 4th worldwide with the PCRA.

The SRSU NIRA Rodeo is so worth watching that for the last two years the Cowboy Channel has broadcast the event live from the S.A.L.E. Arena in Alpine. Not bad for Under the Radar!

Photo and Video by Robert Greeson.