DOUGLAS — Cochise College has tapped Rick Smith to be its next head rodeo coach.
“You look at his resume, and in his coaching life, the number of teams he’s taken to the national finals and the number of athletes who have won at that level is outstanding,” said Cochise College Athletic Director Bo Hall. “And his professional life, he obviously understands what it means to be a professional rodeo cowboy.”
Smith spent 14 years in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competing in saddle bronc riding from the late 1970s through the ‘80s. In that time, he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo six times while also instructing at rodeo schools and working as a pro official.
Since 1995, Smith has worked tirelessly to build Central Wyoming’s rodeo program. He coached eight individuals to national championship titles and watched six alumni qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Smith’s wife, Lynn, joined the CWC rodeo coaching staff in 2000.
Smith said one of the most important aspects of coaching rodeo is finding athletes in high school who exhibit a strong work ethic, which he said is no different than recruiting for any other sport. He said the fitness aspect of rodeo has historically been overlooked, and as a coach, he looks for athletes who are dedicated and willing to “get fit.”
“The No. 1 thing is recruiting the caliber of athletes you need to be competitive,” Smith said. “Knowledge of the sport is an asset, but recruiting is the biggest thing I’ll try to bring to Cochise.”
With one more rodeo left in the Rustlers’ spring season, Central Wyoming’s women’s team is first in the Central Rocky Mountain Region standings, and the men’s team is fourth.
Hall said he’s excited about Smith’s future with the Apaches.
“I feel like we had a great opportunity to pick up a person to take our rodeo program to the next level,” Hall said.
“Of all the people that applied for the position, Smith had one of the best resumes of all of them.”
Out of numerous applicants for the head rodeo coach position, Smith was one of three to be interviewed. He said he and his wife enjoy the outdoors, and they are looking forward to moving to a warmer region.
“We weren’t looking for anything, but opportunities present themselves and you can’t just turn your back on them,” Smith said. “It was a combination of things. Seventeen years in one place is a long time, and you can get a little complacent, start taking things for granted. I think it was time for us to make a change and kind of re-light the competitive fire.”
Smith officially takes over in August, pending governing board approval at its May meeting.
He will replace head coach Kelly Slover, who was hired in 2001 and resigned his position in March. The Cochise rodeo team concluded its season Saturday, with the men’s squad finishing fifth and the women fourth overall in the Grand Canyon Region standings.