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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Donation, prospect of on-campus rodeo spur team spirits

A donation from country singer Michael Martin Murphey and plans to bring the annual New Mexico State University spring rodeo back to campus for the first time in decades are buoying the spirits of the NMSU rodeo team.

a recent visit to the NMSU campus, Murphey announced the donation of $5,000 in scholarship money for 10 team members.

"I'm still kind of shocked," said Coach Jim Dewey Brown. "The team was kind of in awe; a celebrity comes and recognizes them for all their hard work. It's good to have a supporter like him. It really gives the team a boost in confidence when people appreciate what they're doing."

Murphey's gift is the largest donation by an individual during Brown's tenure as coach, which began in 2002. The donation comes as the team gears up for the spring rodeo season with a full schedule of practice sessions starting this week. Both the women's and men's teams are in first place in the Grand Canyon Region, and nationally ranked eighth and 16th, respectively, after the fall rodeos.

"We finished off the fall season and we're on top, so we just need to keep it rolling," Brown said. The first spring rodeo is March 4 and 5 at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

NMSU hosts a late spring rodeo each year, but the event traditionally has been at the Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds, west of Las Cruces, due to the lack of a facility on campus and inadequate parking at the team's practice arena near "A" Mountain. Brown would like to change that.

"We're trying to have our rodeo on campus this spring," he said. With thoughts of staging the NMSU home rodeo there April 28 and 29, Brown is making arrangements to set up a temporary rodeo arena and bleachers in the parking lot east of the Pan Am Center. He's addressing other logistical challenges, and the idea has the support of the Associated Students of New Mexico State University. "They think it will be a good draw."

Brown believes the last time the team's rodeo was on campus was in the 1950s, when riders and ropers competed on the Aggie football field. Bringing the rodeo back to campus will raise the community's awareness of the team, increase attendance and help preserve an important NMSU tradition, he said. The rodeo will be followed by the annual alumni rodeo on April 30.

Darrell J. Pehr
Feb. 28, 2006