Executive Stories

Executives Spotlight stories appeared on this website starting in 2001. Some of the executive's professional experience may have changed since they were published.

Executive Spotlight - October 8, 2003

Steve Hatchell


Commissioner, Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association


I invited him to my annual "Hired Guns" outing this past June. For his signature photo, he showed us the Heisman pose, emulating the famous John W. Heisman trophy, or so they say, "a symbol of American excellence."

We've all been consumed by the economic woes of the major and minor league sports. Many major league baseball teams are trying to cut, cut, cut their expenses and their player payrolls to match the decrease in revenues due to a fallen economy. The National Hockey League owners are prepared to not play a full season in 2003 - 2004 as their loses will be less if they didn't play than if they do. And even minor league sports, such as the WUSA, which folded before the Women's World Cup competition, may be able to live again, but at what cost? Who takes the pay cuts?

Yet out in Colorado Springs, shielded by the Garden of the Gods from the mismanagement woes of the United States Olympic Committee, lives and breathes a moneymaking league, an original American sport, that just may be the "going back to the basics" we, in the sports industry, need - rodeo. Over the last 5 years, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association has achieved two major goals: expansion of revenue and mainstreaming the sport. Through increasing television exposure from 40 hours to over 300 hours, and no-prime time to over 135 different shows on prime time using Outdoor Life, ESPN, ESPN2 and CBS network television, the PRCA packages the shows within a Tour format and has seen its television ratings soar 650% from 7.5 to over 50 rating points. This television exposure has increased its sponsorships nearly three-fold. In mainstreaming the sport, the PRCA created a rodeo at the 2002 Winter Olympics part of the Cultural Olympiad of the Salt Lake Winter Olympic Games...a sold-out U.S. versus Canada rodeo. Rodeos have been the featured event for the U.S. Governor's national convention for the last 3 years, and most recently, rodeo is the featured event for the NATO Defense Ministerial Meeting in Colorado Springs, a 36-country, 600-attendee event. And recently, ProRodeo.com became part of the ESPN.com family of sports entities. The National Rodeo Finals, annually hosted in Las Vegas, a very successful event for the casinos in that town, is now being wooed by Dallas, home to.....the other "Cowboys." Why does "America's Team" need rodeo?

Rodeo, in fact, has increased its stature in the last ten years. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo were partners, as you all know, in the funding and building of Reliant Stadium with the 32nd NFL franchise, the Houston Texans. Wouldn't you be partners with Houston's Rodeo when the two-week attendance at the event drew over 1.2 million, a figure that rivals the Texans and any NFL team's season-long home attendance?

But this aw-shucks, kind of guy, PRCA's Commissioner Steve Hatchell, has perpetually been on the forefront of increasing revenues and exposure. As Executive Director of the Orange Bowl, Steve championed the Bowl Alliance as he saw Bowls competing wildly for significant college rivalries. Why not share the wealth and ensure strong match-ups? And as the Commissioner of the Big 12 Conference, Steve not only was part of its start-up, but also led the generation of $3 million in sponsorship and negotiated for one of the largest television deals for a football championship which aired on ABC. And while at the Southwest Conference, Steve created the first Conference Football Hall of Fame, to showcase the Conferences' national championship honors, 5 Heisman trophy winners and even annual Olympic participants. He was selected in 1998 to run the PRCA because a fellow colleague, Lew Cryer, had also been a Collegiate Conference Commissioner.

Bovendam Research, Inc. cites that "employees are more satisfied when they have challenging opportunities at work." I subscribe to the notion that our job satisfaction is based on whether we feel we are making a difference.

For Steve Hatchell, he has both. Challenging opportunities and clearly he's making a difference. The Cowboys....Steve Hatchell....these are symbols of American excellence.....

--Buffy Filippell


"What impresses me about Steve is his vision. He seems to be constantly looking or thinking outside the box."

--Mike Martin, Director of Communications, Dr Pepper/Seven Up


What I do...

teve oversees a staff of 78, and is the Chief Executive Officer responsible for performing executive functions in connection with the day-to-day operations of this $ 60 million business. The PRCA sanctions 700 events annually with attendance of 23 million. Prize money exceeds $ 36 million and there are over 12,000 members.

HOW I GOT HERE...

PROFESSIONAL RODEO COWBOYS ASSOCIATION; Colorado Springs, CO; 1998 - present
Commissioner

BIG TWELVE CONFERENCE; Dallas, TX; 1995-1998
Commissioner

SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE; Dallas, TX; 1993-1995
Commissioner

FEDERAL EXPRESS ORANGE BOWL; Miami, FL; 1987-1993
Executive Director

METROPOLITAN COLLEGIATE ATHLETIC CONFERENCE; Atlanta, GA; 1983-1987
Commissioner

BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE; Kansas City, MO; 1977-1983
Acting Commissioner
Associate/Assistant Commissioner
Director of Service Bureau

UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO; Boulder, CO; 1970-1977
Director of External Affairs/Sports Information

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