RFD's Randy Bernard Talks 2016 American Changes, 2015 Calf Roping Controversy

Bernard talks about challenges and triumphs of the 2014 and 2015 American.
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Bernard talks about challenges and triumphs of the 2014 and 2015 American.

RFD-TV announced Wednesday that the 2016 American will rock AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Feb. 28, and we got a chance to speak candidly with CEO of RFD Events Randy Bernard about his plans for the third edition of the $2.5-million event and some controversy surrounding it in 2015. 

Randy Bernard Headshot

What has kept you from announcing the dates for the 2016 American until now?

We wanted to make sure we had our title in place, and we wanted to make sure we had some new and exciting elements this year. We wanted to make sure we had those in place as well. 

With that in place, what have been your favorite highlights of the last two Americans?

Paying out the money that we have. It’s great to see cowboys being treated as athletes and making the kind of money they deserve. I wish we could do four or five of these events. I love the fact that it’s in the greatest stadium in the world. The pressure we put on those guys is like a major sport.

To me, I’ve put on over 3,500 events, this is my favorite event I’ve ever produced. It has everything. It has the greatest in the world, it has the underdogs, and there’s always going to be great storylines. We saw June Holeman, Justin McBride, Charmayne James, and last year we saw Chayni Chamberlain and Amberley Snyder fulfill their dreams. That’s what it’s about—creating role models and heroes and building on the sport. We have so much greatness in the Western lifestyle, it’s so fun to showcase these role models in our sport.

Stories like Chayni Chamberlain and Amberley Snyder have definitely drawn national attention to rodeo. Can you give us some other examples of how The American has helped grow the sport of rodeo with outside sponsorship and outside fans?

Our overall production budget is over $5.8 million— excluding what we have to pay Cowboy Stadium--so we’re putting $5.8 million into the Western economy. We’ve brought in non-endemic sponsors like Animal Health and Polaris. We introduced Polaris to the sport, and they were blown away with the response they got. Now they’re in the PRCA, which is great! I’m a huge believer that all boats rise on a high tide.

It’s also created awareness in a lot of places. We’ve had people come from 49 different states the last two years. It’s not just 125-mile radius around the city of Dallas. It’s a national event. To me, that brings awareness up like what we did with the PBR. It really elevates it. And the fact that we create weekly shows on Wednesday on RFD, trying to create stars. My goal is that when Trevor Brazile walks down the street in Fort Worth or Dallas, people know who he is. You don’t do it by having him on TV one week out of every month. You have to have repetitious television and start creating and building your fan base. I’m not asking for him to walk down the street in New York, I just want him to walk down in Fort Worth. We’ve got a long way to go with the sport before we can get our superstars really prominent.

How have your numbers been in the team roping qualifiers?

 They’re about even from last year, but they pick up starting in September. What we’re doing is really waiting for the fall to make our strong push on events like we did the first year. Last year we had 4,000 entries, we’ll do more than that this year.

About last year; at The American Finals, there were accusations of wrongdoing among some of the Final Four contestants in the calf roping. Have you had any resolution to that situation?

No. What we’ve done is turned it over to the proper legal authorities and have asked them to address the issue. As far as I know, there’s still an investigation going on.

Has there been any money awarded to the winners in that event yet?

Nope, not in the calf roping. 

Will anybody be barred from competing as a result in 2016?

That’s really hard. I never want to be a person who puts doubt in our own industry. If the proper authorities came back and said, “There is something here,” then we would have to address it. But until that time, my opinion is that we have to move forward until something is handed down.

When you reference “proper authorities,” could you clarify who you mean?

We put this out to several different law authorities, everyone from the FBI to the Texas Rangers to the Arlington Police Department.

Have you received any updates from any of those agencies on their investigation?

We’ve had some discussions with some, but at this point, until everything has been completed, it’s not fair to talk about it.

What rulebook and procedural changes have you made for the coming year to keep those problems at bay?

We have a plan, but we won’t announce it until October. But this is something we’ve sat down in many meetings to determine a plan that makes this the best for the fans and to make sure the event has the utmost integrity.