The Fresno State Bulldoggers club rodeo team received a gift of more than $300,000, which will be received over the next five years from Central Valley Rodeo Inc.
The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology used the gift to hire coach Tony Branquinho this fall, as well as to pay for future equipment and facility improvements.
“We appreciate this generous gift from Central Valley Rodeo Inc. that made it possible to add well-respected coach Tony Branquinho plus additional resources to the rodeo team,” said Jordan College interim dean Dr. Sandra Witte. “Our men’s and women’s team members exemplify character and dedication, so it is extra special to see our community be able to directly support them as they achieve success in the classroom and athletically. Lessons they learn as part of this nearly 70-year tradition at Fresno State is something that they can apply to the rest of their lives.”
Branquinho was formally introduced at a team barbecue Wednesday night that included Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro, Witte, faculty, staff, team members and friends of the program.
A Fresno State liberal studies graduate in 2001, Branquinho is well known among collegiate rodeo circles as a three-time West Region Coach of the Year and National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Coach of the Year finalist as Cal Poly’s coach from 2006-2012.
His Cal Poly women’s teams claimed five West Coast Region titles and qualified for six national finals. His men’s teams qualified for four national finals. Individually, his men’s and women’s riders combined for 25 regional titles.
“The Central Valley is a rich place in rodeo history,” said Eddie Arakelian, Central Valley Rodeo Inc. president. “We’re excited to help create extra opportunities for the Fresno State rodeo team to grow and thrive. Adding Tony to the program instantly raises the visibility of this program that is already well-respected.”
The Branquinho family’s rodeo history also includes his younger brothers, Casey and Luke, who competed professionally. In 2012, Luke won his fourth world title, and Casey is a former California circuit all-around champion.
The Fresno State Bulldoggers coaching staff also includes 20-year club adviser Dr. Art Parham from the Department of Animal Sciences and Agricultural Education and student coach McKenzie Hale.
In early October, the squad competed in its only fall events — the Lassen College Rodeo and Feather River Rodeo — and currently ranks second and fourth in the West Coast Region women’s and men’s team standings, respectively.
Individually, seven Bulldoggers rank in the top four in regional categories. Freshman Brittany Dias leads the women’s all-around standings, and sophomore Colton Campbell ranks second in the men’s all-around and team roping heeler categories.
Other club members ranked in the top four in the region include Dias (third in breakaway roping, third in goat tying), Campbell (third in team roping heeler), freshman Bodi Dodds (third in team roping heeler), senior Tegan Turner (third in barrel racing), junior Dillon Hushour (fourth in steer wrestling), sophomore Jamie Giefer (fourth in breakaway roping) and junior Billie Holman (fourth in goat tying).
Looking ahead, the club resumes competition in April with its lone home event, the Bulldoggers Rodeo, at the Clovis Rodeo Grounds. More information is available on the team’s Facebook page.