Hancock College rodeo team members
Hancock College students Kathleen Merrill and Xochitl Guzman will compete as members of the new rodeo team at a Fresno event in March. (Contributed photo)

When college athletes compete next month in Fresno, Allan Hancock College for the first time will have three students in the arena representing the fledgling rodeo team and its enthusiastic boosters. 

Upon learning about plans to expand ag programs offered at Hancock College, avid supporter Jim Glines said he told representatives the community college needed a rodeo team to enhance those efforts.

“We’ve got a tremendously strong ag community here,” said Glines, chairman of the board for Community Bank of Santa Maria.

But Hancock loses students to Cal Poly, Cuesta College in San Luis Obispo, West Hills College in Coalinga and to Feather River College in Quincy, Glines said.

“There’s just a lot of these junior colleges and four year colleges that these kids go to rodeo and there’s a lot of them from this area,” Glines said.

Creation of a rodeo team for the community college comes after Santa Maria has hosted its own professional rodeo for 75 years and the high school rodeo competitors have proven successful. 

Launching the Hancock College rodeo team coincides with plans to end the annual fundraising Joe White Memorial Dinner, founded by Glines in 2001 as part of an effort to get the gymnasium named for White.

Starting in 2019, Glines said, the annual dinner, planned for Aug. 24, instead will raise money for the young rodeo team using the same recipe. 

“It’s been very successful for Joe White and I think we can attract a lot of the ag community in Santa Maria that’s not had this avenue available to them before,” Glines said. “It’s an opportunity for kids to come and take part in a great ag program and complete in some highly competitive intercollegiate rodeo.”

The annual Joe White Dinner included New York strip steak by Billy Ruiz’s Cowboy Flavor Catering and an auction. 

Over 17 years, the Joe White Memorial Dinners raised $850,000 for athletics, including naming the gym after the beloved coach and athletic director credited with pioneering Hancock sports program.

White has been named to the California Community College Men’s Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. “His thoughtful leadership managed the present and molded the future of an athletic program that continues to provide educational opportunity for its student participants and a positive profile for the institution,” according to the announcement noting a March 14 induction ceremony in Oxnard.

The money raised by the dinners paid for a new floor in the gym, football scoreboard, remodeled press box, new sound system and other improvements to athletic facilities.  

In addition to the Hancock College Boosters, rodeo team supporters will soon begin rounding up charter members for $1,000 that will include a five-year membership in the booster club and a custom-designed embroidered jacket, to provide seed money.

While Hancock College has had successful viticulture and enology programs, instructor Erin Krier has been tasked with building the ag program to offer other degrees and certificates. 

In addition to the rodeo club, Hancock has formed a Young Farmers & Ranchers Club.

The new rodeo club doesn’t just include those planning to compete, Krier said. 

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm among the competitors and what surprises me most is how much enthusiasm there is among these other students who aren’t competitors but they really support the idea and they want to help the program,” Krier said.

Among the first steps, Hancock College has become a member of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association clearing the way for the debut competition in March.

When they enter the arena, the Hancock rodeo competitors will sport special vests noting their Hancock College affiliation and the Bulldog logo. 

They also hope to land a full time coach, but are getting help from Tony Branquinho, who hails from a family with deep roots in rodeo and who previously coached Cal Poly and Fresno State rodeo teams. 

To grow Hancock’s programs and the rodeo team, Krier said she has reached out to the high school rodeo participants to let them know about Hancock’s new team.

“I want them to know that this an option if they’re looking to rodeo in college,” Krier said. 

Eventually, Glines envisions Hancock hosting its own rodeo for intercollegiate competitors.  

“There’s kind of a world of opportunity and promise here. We’re not quite sure what we’re stepping off into but it’s pretty good,” Glines said. “The horizons are bright.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at jscully@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.