Betty Gayle Cooper Ratliff Fast-Time Award

by Courtesy

The following story includes an announcement of the Betty Gayle Cooper Ratliff Fast-Time Award as well as gathers from feature stories written about her multiple times over the years and carried in the Durant Daily Democrat.

FORT WORTH, Texas – The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame is pleased to announce the creation of a new award in honor of the late 1987 Cowgirl Honoree Betty Gayle Cooper Ratliff. The Betty Gayle Cooper Ratliff Fast-Time Award is in celebration of the inaugural National Finals Breakaway Roping (NFBR) during the Wrangler NFR.

The NFBR is an exciting advancement for Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) ropers. This is the first time cowgirls have had the opportunity to rope alongside the Wrangler NFR. The event will be at Globe Life Field in Arlington, TX, Dec. 8-10.

“We are thrilled to see the increased interest in breakaway roping from the larger community and creating this award was a natural next step,” said the Museum’s associate executive director Dr. Diana Vela. “We are excited for all the competitors who qualified this year and will eagerly watch results during this year’s Wrangler NFR.”

Born into a family of rodeo stars, the late 1987 Cowgirl Honoree Betty Gayle Cooper Ratliff was a nine-time world champion, which included 1989 breakaway champion and four tie-down roping championships. She won her first championship at 12 in junior calf roping.

Ratliff worked as rodeo director of the WPRA to strengthen the sport and helped reorganize the American Junior Rodeo Association. She coached the men’s and women’s rodeo teams for Southeastern Oklahoma State University to win national titles.

“Betty Gayle Cooper Ratliff is one of the reasons we are here today,” said 2021 Inductee and champion breakaway roper Lari Dee Guy. “What an honor to be here roping and being able to continue to carry the torch she and many other strong women lit for us.”

This award is determined by the cowgirl that ropes the fastest time in the first round. If there is a tie, the award will go to the roper that qualified with the most money. The winner will be awarded a beautiful custom, one-of-a-kind Montana Silversmiths buckle.

In addition to this new award, the Museum, partnered with the WPRA will present the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Cowgirl Award to the NFR Barrel Racer who exemplifies the style and spirit of the late Jerry Ann Taylor.  This award is fan-voted on after each NFR round 1 through 9 and awarded before the final round.

The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame celebrates the Wrangler NFR being hosted in Texas and welcomes rodeo fans to visit the Museum, Dec. 3-12. The Anne W. Marion Gallery will feature Girls Rode Association (GRA) artifacts, NFR Barrel Racing and NFBR Breaking Roping Qualifiers and the barrel racer’s qualifier saddles. Also, discounted admission of $8 will be offered to rodeo fans, as well as live music, membership specials, The Shop at the Cowgirl sales and more. The Museum will be closed for private events Dec. 3 and Dec. 7.

Cooper Ratliff is the most decorated cowgirl in the United States in rodeo.  Having won 9 world championships personally in the WPRA and nine NIRA team championships and five reserve championships, and 70 regional championships in her tenure. 1976-1999.

As a competitor, she has won 4 world championships in tie down roping, one each in goat tying and breakaway roping, three all-around crowns.  She was reserve champion in tie down and goat tying three times and twice in the all-around. In the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

Cooper Ratliff competed growing up in the AJRA junior rodeo association.  She won the breakaway title five years straight.  She was quoted as saying “Mom and dad gave up everything for their children, hauling us to rodeos and spending hours on end helping us with practice.  “We always had good horses and Tuffy showed us how to train them ourselves.  I am what I am because of my parents.”

She completed her undergraduate degree at Eastern New Mexico University from 1970-1974 on academic and rodeo scholarships.  In her sophomore-senior years she was on the Dean’s honor roll.  She won the region all-around title three of the four years she attended the university and graduated with a 3.6 grade point average.  She played two years of volleyball as well which earned her number one sports woman two years at ENMU.   She was named in “Most Outstanding College Athletes of America and Who’s Who Among America three years in a row.

During her Intercollegiate rodeo career she won the regional all-around title for three years and the NIRA championship in the breakaway roping.

She coached volleyball and gymnastics for a year and a half in Lovington, New Mexico before coming to southeastern to complete her master’s degree and assist with coaching duties.

“I try to be feminine in both professions – coaching and rodeoing,” said Cooper Ratliff. “I think that’s very important for a women.  It’s hard for some people to understand a woman can be both feminine and a top athlete at the same time. I am not at all a women’s libber but I believe woman can be both a lady and an athlete. Appearance is very important.  It’s something I stress.”

Cooper Ratliff says her father taught her that both mental and physical preparation is important for a rodeo and that’s why she ropes several calves every day, going over an event in her mind before she competes.

She is quoted as saying “Women’s rodeo has come a long way over the years, but we still have a long way to go to bring it to the national prominence of the PRCA.”

With the sponsorship of Smith Brothers, she hosted the first BG Cooper open to the world calf roping, breakaway roping, and goat tying timed event in Denton Texas in 1982.  She made one of the first women’s instructional roping and goat tying VCR/DVD videos.  She created and marketed the Magic Loop Roping Breakaway’s and was endorsed from several sponsors.

“I was going for my 10th world championship two years ago,” said Cooper Ratliff. “Two weeks before the Women’s National finals in Fort Worth I had an MRI done because I thought I had a shoulder injury. That was when they discovered I had cancer and couldn’t compete in the WPRA finals.”

She has been inducted into multiple Halls of Fame, including Lea Cowboy Hall of Fame in Hobbs, N.M., the ENMU Athletic Hall of Fame, the Cowgirl Hall of Fame, and the Southeastern Oklahoma State Rodeo Hall of Fame.

Below is a special letter to the editor in the Durant Daily Democrat from Carol Hill
Probably one of the greatest athletes and inspirations evert o grace a sport passed this last week.  No, it wasn’t Walter Peyton – though he certainly fills the bill.  It was a lady, and she walked among us here in Durant, Oklahoma. Betty Gayle Cooper-Ratliff won 9 professional national championships coaching at Southeastern, 9 professional championships, and was a national champion herself in college and high school.  I know one else on this earth with that overall record.  From a ‘women’s lib’ point of view, one has to wonder what fame would have found her if she was a man.

Her sport was rodeo.  She made the professional women’s hall of fame and was aboard member of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

Betty Gayle believed in looking sharp and being sharp.  She liked having doors opened for her.  She was a true friend.  She spoiled everyone’s kids and she truly adored her and Rip’s only child Coop.

She won and wore many titles well, but the one that meant the most to her was “Mom.”  Betty Gayle was one of the truest champions ever to favor us with his or her life.  She will be missed.  There was only one Betty Gayle Cooper-Ratliff.

All quotes and information are from former articles from the Durant Daily Democrat.

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