BILLINGS — Jeff Malby has been a part of the Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears family for a long time.
A 1984 RMC grad, the Three Forks native is the director of athletics at the private school. He also has a coaching history at Rocky, serving as assistant women’s basketball coach, head women’s basketball coach, and then head men’s basketball coach from 1985-1993. When he returned to the school in the summer of 2014, he was an assistant men’s basketball coach and then assistant athletic director.
So, when Malby received news that Rocky has captured the Bandy Memorial All-Sports trophy for a second consecutive season he felt a little pride and was especially happy for all who contributed to the achievement.
“I was excited when I saw that,” Malby said. “It’s very rewarding for everybody, for the entire college. You don’t always do it two times in a row. Sometimes you never do it. I’m proud of the student-athletes, the coaches, and the commitment from the administration. It all makes it worthwhile.”
The Frontier Conference announced Rocky won the award in a press release Saturday.
Rocky tallied 93.5 points and Lewis-Clark State College was second with 86.5. Carroll College was third with 85.5. Montana Western was fourth with 59, followed by Montana Tech with 58.5, Montana State-Northern with 47.5, Providence with 46.5, College of Idaho with 17 and Southern Oregon and Eastern Oregon with 7.5 points.
Last year, the Bears finished first with 112 points, topping second-place L-C State by 24 points.
“It’s the most prestigious award given out by the Frontier Conference,” Malby said. “It is just an honor to not only win it, but to always be in a position to win it. This year was a lot closer, but it certainly was a total department team effort, that’s for sure.”
It is the eighth time RMC has won. Carroll has won it a record 14 times. UM Western has captured the award six times, including the first. L-C State and Montana Tech have won it four times and MSU-Northern twice. The award was first presented after the 1982-83 season.
Malby said the award “is always icing on the cake and a good way to end the sports season.”
One thing Malby was especially proud of is the academic success Bears student-athletes have been achieving.
“Each semester when honor roll rolls out, we have a high percentage of student-athletes on the honors and dean’s list (3.6-3.99 GPA). We have an amazing number of 4.0s in that grouping,” he said. “This last semester, volleyball had nine 4.0s, which led the department, and football was second with six. It is just getting better and better every year.”
In terms of athletic success, it’s been a good last 10 days for the Bears, whose men’s ski team won the United States Collegiate Ski & Snowboard Association National Championships overall championship for a seventh time on March 12.
“I think they internally compete against each other and it makes the programs better and it’s continuing a proud tradition of competing and going to class and doing well and volunteering in the community,” Malby said. “That makes it so special.”
Currently, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the Frontier Conference have canceled all sports-related activity due to the coronavirus pandemic. Even the weight room is closed at Rocky. Students are taking online classes. All is being done in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing.
Winning the award — which is earned by the Frontier school that has the most points based on regular-season finishes in football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, volleyball and men’s and women’s golf – helped lift spirits at Rocky.
“It’s at least a way to deflect some of that worry and concern,” said Malby.
Malby said Rocky has responded well to the pandemic.
“The crisis management task force on campus has done an amazing job and looking at all angles when it comes to planning and doing what’s best to make life easier for the students,” he said. “I think it’s been handled extremely well, especially since everybody in leadership on campus has never been through anything like this. I think the whole community has really stepped up.”
Rocky claimed regular-season Frontier titles in men’s and women’s golf and women’s cross country. L-C State won titles in men’s cross country and men’s basketball. Carroll claimed the women’s basketball regular-season crown and College of Idaho was the conference champ in football. Tech and Providence each had a 9-3 conference mark in the regular season in volleyball.
The all-sports trophy is named in honor of the conference’s first commissioner, George Bandy, his wife, Cheryl Ann, and their 8-year-old son Michal. The family died in a boating accident on Canyon Ferry Reservoir in 1982.
Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL