As the annual Montana State University Spring Rodeo begins, Bobcat Rodeo has already claimed another title by becoming the first university rodeo program in the nation to endow more than $1 million in private support, according to Michael Stevenson, MSU Alumni Foundation president and chief executive officer.
On Thursday, officials from the MSU Alumni Foundation announced that it had cleared the $1 million mark in a yearlong effort to ensure Bobcat Rodeo continues to thrive for generations.
"Rodeo is a part of MSU's history," said MSU President Waded Cruzado. "Both the program and the student-athletes embody the values and traditions upon which MSU was founded and continue to guide us today."
At the 2012 Spring Rodeo, Cruzado announced the goal - become the first university in the nation to raise $1 million in endowed private support for its rodeo program. One year later, that goal has been achieved. At least $750,000 of the total raised will fund 18 scholarship endowments, 16 of which are new, for rodeo student-athletes. The remaining funds will be available to Bobcat Rodeo for program-related expenses, including other student support.
While the rodeo program covers some expenses, the student-athletes are often responsible for significant costs such as boarding horses and practice livestock, animal care, fuel, and travel expenses to and from competitions.
"Our student-athletes are students first," said MSU Rodeo Coach Mike True, "so scholarship support is critical to their ability to pursue their education and relieve a lot of the financial burden they've had to shoulder. Plus, this level of support will make us even more competitive as a team. We're definitely the ones to watch."
The campaign was a "roll-up-your-sleeves effort," said Stevenson, who added the initiative was led by a group of volunteers dubbed "The Magnificent Seven" by Cruzado. "The success of this effort demonstrates what happens when people who are passionate about something step forward to make a difference," said Stevenson. Those volunteers included Butch Bratsky of Billings, Dean Folkvord of Three Forks, Tom Holland of Dillon, Mike Hope and Ryan Elliott of Bozeman, Mark Norem of Big Timber, and Bill Davis of Sidney.
MSU Bobcat Rodeo has been a consistent leader claiming eight national team titles, eight Big Sky regional titles, and 33 individual national championships since its inception. Last season the Bobcat men's and women's teams were regional champions.
"Talent, hard work, and success describe the legacy of this program," Cruzado said. "Thanks to our generous and loyal supporters, we've taken the first step to secure the future of rodeo at Montana State University."