With the possibility of losing upward of $100,000, Zack Oakes is fighting back.
The target is the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the bull rider who lives in Elk, Wash., isn’t happy, to say the least.
“The PRCA is a bunch of crooked bastards – you can put that in your paper,” Oakes said Tuesday afternoon. “I’ve been fighting with them all day. I had a phone hearing today and they rejected me. Now the best thing to do is get a lawyer and look into it. I don’t know what to do.”
At issue is a Xtreme Bulls Tour guideline that says a contestant must compete in at least 40 traditional PRCA rodeos before winnings from the PRCA sponsored Xtreme Bulls events count in the bull riding standings. The top 15 money winners qualify for the National Finals Rodeo.
“I don’t think he’s being cheated in any way,” said Aaron Enget, director of rodeo administration. “The PRCA felt bull riding contestants need to support PRCA rodeos and PRCA rodeo committees. The rule has been in there quite some time.”
Oakes is having a big year, with just shy of $73,000 in winnings, good for seventh place in the national standings. That includes his Xtreme Bulls winnings. However, he is well short of the 40-rodeo minimum heading into an important weekend of rodeos in Puyallup and Spokane, where he is up Saturday during the three-day Interstate Fair PRCA rodeo.
To say Oakes doesn’t like the rule is an understatement.
“The PRCA has turned into an amateur rodeo association, is what I think,” he said. “Back in the good ol’ days, the top 15 who won the most money got to go to the Finals, no matter what. If I don’t get to go, somebody who didn’t (earn) it gets to go.”
Oakes, who qualified for the NFR in 2004 and 2005, broke his pelvis in Houston in March and had a bunch of related hip problems.
“I was going to take the year off and get it fixed, but the surgeon who was going to do it was out until August,” Oakes said. “I was hanging in the top 15. I thought if I could hold together, maybe I could sneak in. Now I have this thing. It’s a slap in the face.”
As near as Oakes can tell, the rule has never been questioned.
“It’s never come up before because it’s just a pretty rare year to have the kind of success I’ve been lucky enough to have in such a short amount of rodeos,” he said. “It just doesn’t happen that way, so they never ran into this before. I guess they never thought they would. Forty is not a lot of rodeos unless you’re hurt. You can go to 50, 60 rodeos on a pretty soft year.”
Enget said there is a three-step appeal process and the third step, which occurred yesterday although he hadn’t seen a written ruling, “is final and binding according to our by-laws.
“I’m very sympathetic to Zack’s appeal and request. However, the rules were published and he should have been aware of them. The end result is the end result.”
That doesn’t mean Oakes is going to throw in the towel.
“I’m going to try to get to them, it’s just going to cost me time and money,” Oakes said. “I can’t go to the top eight or top four in Puyallup, that can pay $8-10,000. The same with Omaha, because I’m going to have to go to smaller rodeos to get my count in.”
Oakes, who met Mt. Spokane graduate Anne Bolich at a rodeo and married her in 2001, has a solution.
“It just seems like such a simple thing to me, the guys that make most money go to the NFR,” he said. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I don’t know the problem with that is. That’s the way it’s always been.”
The big reason for the angst is the potential winnings at the NFR.
“It (can be) a $100,000 week for me and I just won’t accept that,” he said.
Oakes understands that venting doesn’t change his situation.
“I think people need to know about it. It ain’t really fair,” he said. “You caught me at a bad time. I don’t have anything good to say. Maybe we can get something resolved.”
Behind the Chutes
The rodeo performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday. … Corey and Horst Rodeo Co. out of Moses Lake is the stock contractor. … Oakes would probably be the third local cowboy at the NFR, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Cheney bareback rider Ryan Gray is eighth nationally with almost $80,000 and a huge cushion with less than a month left in the “regular season.” … Calf roper Tyson Durfey of Colbert is also eighth with $66,000, a $10,000 cushion for the top 15 with less than a month left in the “regular season.” Gray and Oakes are scheduled to compete Sunday unless they make the final round at Puyallup, which has a far bigger payday at stake. … Puyallup could also take away other national leaders. … Almost all of the leaders from the Columbia River circuit are entered, including the all-around leaders. Saddle bronc/bareback rider Ben Londo of Pendleton (up Saturday) leads the way, followed by Hermiston, Ore., calf roper Brad Goodrich (up Sunday). Next is the team roping pair of Benton City, Wash.’s B.J. Campbell and Californian Russell Cardoza (up Friday). … The circuit leaders in team roping are Ellensburg brothers Riley and Brady Minor (up Sunday), who are ninth nationally. … The calf roping field also includes are pair of Texans, eight-time champion Fred Whitfield (up Friday) and six-time champion Cody Ohl (up Saturday).