Fresno State alumnus Tony Branquinho is ecstatic to return to the university as the head coach for the Bulldoggers club rodeo team.
“I bleed red and blue,” Branquinho said. “It’s just in my blood.”
The 2001 liberal studies graduate, who competed for Fresno State at the 1999 College National Finals Rodeo and finished ninth in the country for team roping, found he never quite fit in at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he was head coach for its rodeo team.
“I was never fully embraced by the Mustang Nation because I wasn’t one of them,” he said.
This was despite Branquinho being named the three-time West Region Coach of the Year and a National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association Coach of the Year finalist during his tenure at Cal Poly from 2006-2012.
Branquinho feels at home coaching at Fresno State and working in the San Joaquin Valley.
“I know the area. I know the university. I know how great this program is and [how it] can continue to grow.”
Branquinho’s hiring was made possible because of a donation of more than $300,000 over the next five years from Central Valley Rodeo Inc.
“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.” she said. “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,”
The new rodeo coach tries to instill positivity into the riders by breaking down each event with positive reinforcement and having the team work with the practice dummies on top of working with the horses.
But, Branquinho wants to go beyond the basics of rodeo riding and teaching the intangibles.
“A lot of it is about learning how to balance your time with education and practice, traveling to the rodeos, controlling your emotions in pressure situations,” Branquinho said.
Branquinho said he blends all that into his coaching style to help his riders for not just “how they compete in the rodeo ring at an event, but for life in general.”
Gianna Toso, a junior agriculture business student who has been with the team since freshman year, already knows about balancing her college life between education and the team.
“You always gotta wake up a little earlier than the rest, go and feed your animals,” she said.
“It’s definitely a different experience from everybody else who goes to school here because you’ve got other obligations. You know, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Sometimes you lose a little sleep, but it’s definitely worth it,” Toso said.
While Branquinho would like his team to win to regional and national titles, having them walk out of Fresno State with a degree is much more important to him.
“Because to me, just like any other professional sport, only a handful of people go on to be professional cowboys and make a living,” Branquinho said.
“When these kids walk out here with their degree, they’re going to be productive members of society and show future generations how important rodeo helped them attained their degree,” he added.