PUEBLO, Colo. – When the PBR decided to scrap the old Iron Cowboy format earlier this season, it was because many supporters of the sport complained that riders that posted a qualified ride were eliminated from the event in some cases, while other riders could not ride a single bull and still win the marque PBR event.
After multiple conversations and fine-tunings, the PBR has brought back a bracket-style event for the final PBR Major of the 2015 season.
The Jack Daniel’s Music City Knockout will be unlike any of the other two PBR Majors this season and is extremely different from the old Iron Cowboy format.
Instead of a 24-rider bracket, this year’s edition will feature 36 riders, as well as a newly added “Second Chance” bracket.
“It is a special event, but a lot of our fans have been upset with guys advancing to the next round and somebody didn’t make the whistle,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said. “This will be better than that one. This will be a little better. The Second Chance bracket, I really like that. I really like it where somebody could ride there bull and get beat, but they did all they could do. Then they come back and can ride one of the toughest bulls in the PBR and still have a chance to win the event.”
Three of this season’s World Champion Bull contenders – Smooth Operator, Little Red Jacket and Jared Allen’s Air Time – will highlight the Second Chance Bracket.
While riders can still advance based on buckoff time, some riders will get another opportunity if they are eliminated during the event.
The Second Chance Bracket will consist of the Top 8 riders (based on individual ride score or buckoff time) eliminated from the first four rounds.
2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney won the old Iron Cowboy format in 2012 and said he likes the added wrinkles to the new bracket format for Nashville.
“Oh yeah, I like that format,” Mauney said. “Especially when they told me you could win pretty much first and second and you could win $125,000. I am all about that.”
Mauney was referencing the other major addition in this year’s format.
The rider that has the highest cumulative ride score will be crowned the Ride Score Champion in Nashville and receive the second-most points (240) and money ($50,000).
The Ride Score Champion bonus should also convince riders to try and go for 8 seconds on every ride. In years past, some riders would jump off early to save their bodies for the next round if they knew their opponent did not make a qualified ride.
The rider that loses the final head-to-head matchup will receive 180 world standings points. It is also possible that he could win the Ride Score Championship.
“There are some good things in there,” said two-time World Champion Justin McBride, who is co-hosting a CBS Sports Network pre-show with Lambert on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. “We will see how it plays out and how it works. The cool thing about it is it is set up to make it the best event it could be. At the end of the day, that is what they are trying to do. They are trying to make it the best fan and the best rider experience they can.”
It is possible that the last man remaining in the bracket-style tournament could also ride the most bulls for the highest ride score. Therefore, he could earn the 400 points for winning the bracket, as well as the 240 points for being the Ride Score Champion.
Once you combine those points with the points a rider gains for advancing to the Elite 8 (100 points) and Final Four (150 points), one rider could potentially earn 890 points.
“How big can it not be?” CBS Sports Network commentator J.W. Hart replied when asked about the significance of the final PBR Major.
If the chips fall in that manner, it could be a huge swing in the world standings. That kind of performance by No. 3 Matt Triplett could put him right back on the doorsteps of the No. 1 world ranking or it could help three-time World Champion Silvano Alves or four-time PRCA champion J.W. Harris cut their world lead deficits in half.
However, much of that will depend on how Joao Ricardo Vieira fares. The No. 1 bull rider in the world has been dominant in the PBR Majors this season, going 6-for-8 and earning 1,777.5 points.
Vieira has started the stretch run slow though and has only two rides in five attempts.
“Joao has done won two of them,” Hart said. “He knows the importance of them. He has been focused on getting the points at the Majors. Even though J.B. has won two in a row, Joao may be the favorite going into it.”
Vieira won the 2014 Iron Cowboy despite going 0-for-5 and understood the criticism he received for winning the 24-rider tournament in 2014 in Arlington, Texas.
He also wasn’t pleased he didn’t cover his bulls that weekend.
“I would like to cover all of my bulls when I am there, but the bulls get harder every round you go to, so that is almost impossible to do,” Vieira said. “Of course I would like to, especially if I could get 92-93 point rides every time.”
He spent a good 10 minutes in the Tulsa, Oklahoma, locker room studying the bracket and reviewing the rules.
“It counts so much,” Vieira said through translator Miriaham Contreras earlier this summer. “You can get 900 points in this one event. It will help a lot. That could also help someone else. It could be great for them, but that is why this format of an event is very difficult to win. You have to come in conditioned and mentally ready for it as well.”
Vieira concluded that he would be honored to end up sweeping the 2015 PBR Majors.
“I am very excited and I hope to win all three,” he said.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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