Last night I had the distinct privilege of attending the CNFR Scholarship Awards Banquet. Many years ago this was a coveted event brought to us by a national sponsor. When that sponsor decided to pull their money the banquet also disappeared.

The event would bring up to 400 contestants, their families, coaches, their families, and NIRA staff all to one room at the same time. Totaling upwards of 800 people, a night celebrating 4.0 GPA's and handing out gaggles of scholarships was really something to look forward to. And now, after a 3 year hiatus, it has returned. Even though it may take a couple of years to build it back up to where it was, I am very excited to see it back.

Roger Walters, NIRA Commissioner, recognized the efforts of the local CNFR committee; a group of local people that work year round to make this rodeo happen. We were also able to meet each Regional Coach of the year as well as Rodeo of the Year. Personally, the best part of the night is bringing the two entities, the local committee and the NIRA together recognizing both. I'm not sure either side really knows what the other does. With the exception of Mr. Roger, who regularly works with both.

The scholarships that were handed out included three Nothin' But Try scholarships in the name of Levi Wisness, Betty Gayle Cooper and Lee Akin. All three of these individuals have impacted the sport of rodeo and college rodeo in particular. In addition, the John J. Smith Graduate Scholarship was also awarded. For those that have followed the CNFR, John Smith was the NIRA Commissioner just prior to Mr. Roger taking over. What a great way to honor someone- to give an athlete a scholarship in their name. The following students were awarded scholarships last night:
Levi Wisness "Nothin' But Try" - Lauren Reiser, Montana State University
Betty Gayle Cooper "Nothin' But Try" - Traci Bailey, Texas Tech University
Lee Akin "Nothin' But Try" - Eastern Oregon University
John J. Smith Graduate Scholarship - Jared Sharp, Oregon State University

These are the first of many scholarships that will be awarded this week. As we talked this morning, there is so much opportunity for these rodeo athletes made available through their affiliation with the NIRA and the sport of rodeo. Through their love of rodeo they get to attend college. Maybe it's not so bad to let your babies grow up to be cowboys.