PUEBLO, Colo. – On Thursday afternoon, the PBR announced a new change to its points system effective for the 2015 season. The changes, which can be found in detail here, put an emphasis on winning more than anything else.
Members of the PBR Competition Committee, such as Ty Murray, Cody Lambert, Michael Gaffney, Cody Custer, David Fournier and Adriano Moraes, discussed with PBR officials, statisticians and Built Ford Tough Series riders – such as Kody Lostroh, Guilherme Marchi, J.B. Mauney and Stormy Wing – to look at ways to enhance the competition level in the PBR.
“All of sports is about greatness and is about winning,” said Murray, a nine-time World Champion. “It is about finding the person that is the best. I feel like that is what the new points system does. I feel like it is a step toward working better for that and it awards winning first. That is the name of any sport. As you grow and evolve, your history shows you things where you can make improvements on your sport. I felt like that is where we are at.”
After analyzing 10 years of data, it was determined that riders who placed first, second and third in rounds and events were not being awarded an appropriate number of points in relation to those who finished fourth and below. In the old system, there was only a 10-point discrepancy between finishing first or second in a BFTS round. Now, that difference improves to 40 points.
In terms of winning the aggregate in 2015, there will be a 160-point difference between first and second compared to the 30-point (two-day event) and 40-point (three-day event) difference there was for placing the highest in the event average in 2014.
Without ride scores carrying over into the world standings, it makes placing high at a BFTS event ever so important.
“I think it’s a great system that rewards top performances like it should be,” said Lostroh, who won a career-high five events during his 2009 world title season.
Prior to making the change, the competition committee looked at a variety of factors following the statistical analysis of past seasons. A rough proposal was shown to the riders during the 2014 Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas, before the committee held a series of conferences calls in the past few weeks to finalize the new system after hearing some initial feedback from the riders.
“We are at a place now that we have the statistics, the history and the data and now look at things and see those things,” Murray said. “You don’t want to make the calls on a guesstimation and that is what we had to do in the very beginning (of the sport).”
This is the latest change to the points system after the PBR modified the system some in 2013 with the increasing amount of international and Touring Pro Division events. Instead of using that system, which used a 25-percent carryover to the world standings, now there is a simpler formula for fans to grasp with the growing BlueDEF Velocity Tour.
Gaffney, who won the World Championship in 1997, added that the evolution process of the sport is a good sign. The PBR is showing an awareness to keep on trying to find ways to improve professional bull riding, he says.
“Every sport evolves over time and I don’t think you quit evolving if you continue to try and be competitive and make a sport or business better,” Gaffney said. “I think that is what we are doing. We are just trying to make the sport better for the guys. The whole premise of this is evolving to make everything better for the organization, the guys and the fans. That is the way we have always looked at it.”
Lambert said the core essence of the sport when the 20 founders created the PBR was to reward the best rider who rode the rankest bulls. That is how a World Champion was supposed to be crowned.
“It’s always been about scoring as high as you can on every bull,” Lambert said. “That is the essence of the sport. To get the highest score you can on every bull. The whole foundation of the sport is the guy getting on the toughest bulls and trying to ride him and that was always the best strategy until now. We want it to go back to the best strategy being guys trying to win every time they try to get on a bull. Not just play it safe and get a score.”
Murray added, “A piece of the PBR’s mission statement is that every year we are in search of the best bull rider in the world. We don’t care who he is. We don’t care where he comes from. We don’t care of any of that. What we are looking for is who rides bulls better than anyone else in the world every year. That is who we want to have a belt buckle that says PBR World Champion and has a $1 million bonus in their pocket.”
Murray said he wanted to make it clear that he didn’t want this to discredit the talent of three-time World Champion Silvano Alves, who has 11 career wins in five years on the BFTS to go along with 46 Top-5 finishes and 61 Top-10’s.
“I don’t want to say anything as a slight to Silvano,” Murray said. “He is a great bull rider. He is arguably as good as anyone there has ever been and he is poised to surpass what anybody has been able to do in the PBR. What he was doing before was nothing but very smartly playing the game the way things were laid out to be played. It worked out for him three of the last four years.
“Without a doubt, he is still the favorite (in 2015) and he should be. I want him to be.”
Lambert believes Alves can still win in the new system.
“Silvano is good enough to win more World Championships, but he is not going to be able to do it by lying back anymore,” Lambert said. “He is going to have to attempt to ride the better bulls, which he is very capable of doing.”
While there will be plenty of attention focused on the top of the world standings, the changes for 2015 also reward riders who are busting their tails in the Touring Pro Division and on the BlueDEF Velocity Tour, something Gaffney thinks will be exciting to follow.
“From the top down, it does nothing but reward greatness and solid consistent guys,” Gaffney said. “It is going to give those guys in the BlueDEF Tour trying to make it a reward for sticking their necks out.”
Custer added, “It values the lower-level events to a higher level because what that does is it helps those events draw some guys to come and the guys that are trying to get to the big show. It also helps the guys that have been cut. They all have the same chance to do well.”
Fournier said the new system is going to provide further opportunities for riders at all levels and countries that strive to be No. 1. After viewing the statistical analysis, he is confident the new system is going to benefit everyone involved in the sport.
“With the system being explained and the research that has been done and the models shown, this system is going to benefit everybody," Fournier said. "It is going to give the young guns a really good opportunity to get on the Built Ford Tough a lot quicker. I think this is one of the best points system that any association has."
Regardless of what the new points system is, Wing said the main thing is that it still all goes back to riding your bulls.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say I am for it or against it, but I am anxious to see how it works,” Wing said. “I just have to worry about staying on. I don’t accept mediocrity, and I am either going to lose or win. There is no in between.
“It is just a points system that the guys that win first are going to move on. It is the same deal, except they are not factoring in the single ride score. Once you see it on paper, you can see it does work out and that the guys above us know what they are talking about. It is what it is and I will continue to tie my hand into that rope and try to be the baddest one out there.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko.
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