PUEBLO, Colo. – Throughout 2016, many stock contractors believed the Built Ford Tough Series regular season would ultimately not matter much at all when it came down to winning the 2016 World Champion Bull title.
As long as their bulls could earn the necessary eight BFTS outs, and finish the regular season in the Top 7 of the World Champion Bull standings, then it wouldn’t matter if they were the No. 1 seed or the No. 7 seed coming into the World Finals seeing as the bulls’ scores would reset at the Finals.
Now some rule changes for the 2017 season will make the regular season ever so important for any stock contractor wanting to claim the 2017 World Champion bull title.
The PBR announced on Tuesday official rule changes for the 2017 season. No change was bigger than alterations to the World Champion Bucking Bull title:
"The WCBB will be determined based on the Top 8 outs during PBR Built Ford Tough Series regular-season events plus two outs at the PBR World Finals. The bull with the highest average bull score across those 10 outs will be crowned the PBR WCBB and earn the $100,000 WCBB bonus."
The World Champion Bull title will now mathematically count regular-season performance across the Built Ford Tough Series.
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert likes the change as it continues to simplify the World Champion Bull race for fans and is a reflection of what many stock contractors asked for.
“(The PBR Executive Competition Committee) ran a lot of numbers, and a lot of different scenarios, and this seems to be the cleanest, simplest, most-fair plan that we can come up with,” Lambert said. “I can’t think of any negatives to do with it. The only negative I guess is if the judges get the score wrong, but that has always been a potential negative.”
Every bull out at the Built Ford Tough Series level will carry higher stipulations than it did in 2016.
Stock contractors will still be able to drop a low bull score for their animal by bucking their bull more than the minimum of eight times like last season, when the regular-season determined which bulls qualified for the World Finals as World Champion Bull contenders.
Now there is no questioning how valuable regular-season bull scores will be.
Under the new system, the 2016 World Champion Bull title would not have come down to a tiebreaker at the Finals. Instead, SweetPro's Bruiser would have won the title with an average 10-out bull score of 45.83 points, while Pearl Harbor would have finished runner-up with an average score of 45.63 points.
H.D. Page of D&H Cattle Company, the owners of the last two World Champion Bulls (Bruiser and SweetPro’s Long John), said he was happy with the adjustments.
“Works for me,” Page said. “It only makes sense to count them all year.”
Much like the bull riders, who compete all year for world standings position heading into the World Finals, bulls will also now be jockeying for position and not have their entire years’ worth of work come down to only the final two outs at the World Finals.
Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger said this is how the World Champion Bull should be determine.
“I like that it is bull of the year after all,” Berger said.
A monster performance at the World Finals can still help a bull win the championship, and the Finals will still most likely be the defining moment in the World Champion Bull race.
The Finals will also serve as the ultimate tiebreaker and not the regular season, which it was in 2016 when Bruiser won the world title:
In the event of a tie between two or more bulls after the 10 outs, the bull with the highest average score across two outs at the World Finals will be named the PBR World Champion Bucking Bull. (If there remains a tie among two or more bulls, the championship bull title will be shared among all bulls tied, and the prize money will be divided evenly among the stock contractors of these bulls.)
However, now a monumental bull score early on in the season – such as at the Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden on Jan. 6-8 in New York – could go a long way toward a bull winning the 2017 title. A 47-point bull score in January is just as important as a 47-point bull score at the Finals.
Gene Owen, who hauled three of last year’s World Champion Bull contenders, said he would like to see the minimum of eight outs be a little higher, but he is still happy with the changes.
“I am fine with whatever they do,” Owen said. “I do like that. There is going to be good and bad with everything. I just hope I have one that is in there.”
A bull still will need to have two outs at the World Finals to be eligible to win the world title, though.
“I picked 106 bulls to go to the World Finals (last year) and about 52 of them had two outs, so nearly half the bulls there get two outs,” Lambert said.
Julio Moreno, owner of three-time World Champion Bushwacker, said, “I like it this way. I wish it would have been that way years ago. World Championship races should be determined on an average base just like any other sport.”
The rule changes also result in the World Champion Bull title being worth more money in 2017.
The World Champion Bull could win potentially $150,000 if he sweeps the PBR bull accolades. That would have been the case in 2015 under the new system. Long John would have won the regular season championship, the Bull of the Finals award and the world title.
Four-time Stock Contractor of the Year Jeff Robinson likes that the World Champion Bull can win the kind of money a champion deserves.
“I think it is great,” Robinson said. “Makes the entire year more of a process into the outcome and (they) truly are rewarding a World Champion with World Champion money.”
The World Champion Bull title is worth $100,000 and the Top 3 bulls in the final regular-season standings – which is determined by the average of a bull’s eight highest bull scores – will win $25,000, $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.
Matt Scharping likes that there is now a value to going into the World Finals ranked No. 1 in the bull standings.
“If you have a couple of bad days, you have to keep pushing,” Scharping said. “You want to go into the Finals at No. 1 now. That can make a difference in what you are doing.”
“Wow, that’s great,” Moreno added. “I’m happy they are looking after the bulls.”
Owen said, “It looks like they had added a lot more to the World Champion Bull race and that is cool.”
The PBR Bull of the Finals award pays out $25,000.
The PBR Bull of the Finals will be awarded to the bull with the highest average score over two outs at the PBR World Finals. Any bull with two outs at the World Finals is eligible to win PBR Bull of the Finals.
“We have gone back to having an award for bull of the Finals in case one of those bulls that doesn’t have enough outs to be eligible for a World Championship turns out to be the best bull at the Finals,” Lambert said. “The idea of a bull showing up at the World Finals and dominating, and not being in the running to be the champion, (should be rewarded). We thought about it forever.
“The Finals is the hardest to win whether you are a bull rider or a bull and that is why it always carried so much weight.”
The 2017 Stock Contractor of the Year will also earn a $10,000 bonus.
Lambert, who added he was happy to see the PBR increasing its prize purse for the riders in 2017, said the PBR was also due to pay its bovine athletes more for their success.
“It is time for us too and we wanted to for a long time,” Lambert said, “but we were so busy making sure the riders were taken care of we hadn’t been at that point to raise it for the bulls. We still pay more than anywhere else, but it is going to be better for them. As the PBR continues to grow, it is going to grow for everyone.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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