Poly Royal has been a tradition at Cal Poly for over 75 years. | Joseph Pack/Mustang News

At this year’s 76th Poly Royal Rodeo, Mark and Jessie Milano announced they are donating $1 million to the Cal Poly Rodeo Team.

While the Milanos are not Cal Poly alumni, they have formed connections with the team, College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences’ (CAFES) Communications Specialist AnnMarie Cornejo said.

“As cattle ranchers, the Milanos have an interest in the rodeo,” Cornejo said. “They also knew one of the students enrolled in the program and from there they got to know (rodeo team) coach Ben Londo.”

As the largest donation in the program’s history, the Milano Family Rodeo Scholarship will be awarded to students for both athletic and academic purposes.

Londo said the scholarship is designed to reward and entice students to become better in the rodeo arena, and award them for their academic goals and progress.

“They are also making contributions to their team outside the arena by participating in charity events and fundraisers,” Londo said. “They deserve to be rewarded for their efforts.”

The gift will increase the program’s scholarship offerings from $16,000 in 2015-16 to $80,000 in 2016-17. Scholarships will be awarded beginning Fall 2016.

“It’s going to help in a lot of different levels. Number one, it’s going to make Cal Poly feasible for students that might not have been able to afford to come here,” Londo said. “Number two, students are trying to balance 40 hours of work outside of school, so hopefully these scholarships will help take the pressure off of them and continually help students grow.”

However, the donation was not the only good news for the team. The team continued its winning streak at the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s (NIRA) West Coast Regional Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. Now, the Cal Poly Rodeo Team will be competing once again in the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) from June 10-18 in Casper, Wyo.

Cal Poly validates its title as the “Notre Dame of rodeo” by being one of the top teams in the NIRA as well as in the CNFR, where it has won 45 titles since 1956.

The CNFR, or “the Rose Bowl of national rodeo,” is where NIRA individual event champions compete in saddle bronc riding, bareback riding, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, bull riding, team roping, barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying. There will be more than 400 students competing and more than 100 universities and colleges from across the nation.

“Rodeo is unlike any other college sports program,” Londo said. “It all comes down to just one rodeo for the national champions.”

Four women and six men will represent Cal Poly at Nationals. Rodeo events begin at the end of September and continue through May. With approximately 10 rodeos, individuals must end up in the top three for their respective event to qualify for CNFR.

For the first time, Cal Poly’s team is advancing to Nationals with all spots team, according to agricultural communication sophomore Katie Rice.

This means four Cal Poly girls, including Rice, qualified at the regional finals with top individual scores.

“Normally, we have empty spots that we have to pick up because the top scores were not all Cal Poly students,” Rice said. “But this year four girls who qualified at regional finals will represent Cal Poly.”

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