• 79°

Wisconsin native to be named TSU rodeo coach

Sports Editor

Like most passions, Rick Jones’ love for rodeo started in the backyard.

Baseball. Football. Basketball. For years, games played behind the house among friends and family alike.

Jones, who will be announced as the first head coach of Troy State University’s new rodeo team this morning, said it was the same way for him growing up in Wisconsin.

"I can remember back with my dad, there was just one horse that stood out in the pasture and I wanted to ride that horse in the worst way," said Jones. "I wasn’t really brought up around the rodeo but by the time I was probably 10 or 11 there were several guys who were fans and we formed our own little club. For me it just started by playing around the backyard with a bunch of guys, no organization, just having fun."

As Jones puts it, he started "riding and roping" even before he was a high schooler. His love for the sport carried over into college at the University of Wisconsin and then into the professional ranks following graduation. He said he still stays active during the summer months.

After college, Jones moved back to his hometown of Mineral Point, a place he describes as tucked away in the "southwest corner" of the state. He started an Equine ranch there and a family. Jones has two sons also, one which started competing in rodeo last year at the age of nine.

"Last year was his first year because kids need to get some added size and strength, more coordination, before they can compete," he said. "We do it all the time at home, but to go out and compete you need to be a bit more mature."

Jones said he first heard of the opening at TSU from his wife, who was reading Pro Rodeo Sports News and saw the advertisement for the position.

"She called and we had one day to get my resume down here. Then, a week later, we had a conference call with Dr. (Jean) Laliberte and some others. That was on a Thursday," Jones recalled, "and Friday afternoon we left as a family to drive down here and do an interview on Monday."

Jones described the entire application process as a "fast ordeal," with little time to think about questions concerning his family. Jones had done the rodeo circuit from Montana to Michigan, but he had never been this far south in this life.

"Probably that was the best way for it to happen," Jones reflected. "There was a question that if they offered me the job, does the family want to move that far away? Or is the youth rodeo association growing? Because my oldest son is rodeo crazy. It’s a social thing. Just to have another kid say to him that he did a great job, makes the world for him. Lights him up like the sun. And that’s good because that’s why I like to be involved with rodeo."

Jones said Troy impressed him, especially the degree of support offered to its new rodeo program.

Still, he was surprised to find out that Friday night’s Pike County Cattlemen’s Association sponsored PCA rodeo was its tenth in a row.

"Really?" He said. "That’s excellent. I’m getting to know more about Troy. That was another question that I had before I came down here. What’s the rodeo environment like? Is if flourishing?"

Jones will also perform tonight and will compete alongside a few of his future students.

"It’ll be fun," he said. "I told them that I wouldn’t mind getting a chance to rope if I came down and we were able to set it up."

The new coach said is first year with the team will be a "learning process", but added he wants to be as competitive as possible "right out of the block."

"It sounds like we have some great athletes coming in," he said. "There’s no reason we can’t go out there and turn some heads and have people saying, ‘hey, what’s this coming out of Troy State?’ We want to have big goals and if you don’t set them high, you don’t get there."

One athlete, however, Jones regrets not having for this season will be Patrick Smith of Banks. Smith, a main proponent for bringing rodeo to Troy State, suffered a riding accident in early February and died soon after.

"Dr. Laliberte said he was one of the cornerstones and one of the workhorses for getting this program up and running," said Jones. "I feel sad that I won’t be able to meet him. He sounds like great kid and a hard worker. I would have loved to have had him in this program."