Great things are happening for Billings, MT and Rocky Mountain College Athletics. This year Rocky and Billings are hosting the NAIA Women’s Division I National Championships. Thirty-two NAIA women’s basketball teams from across the country will travel to Billings to compete in the seven day, single-elimination tournament. Due to the fact that Billings and Rocky are hosting the championship, Rocky’s women’s basketball team receives an automatic entrance into the tournament. The championship itself begins Wednesday Mar. 15 and will last until Mar. 21. It will be held at Rimrock Auto Arena.
While it is considered an honor to host such an event, it could not have been done alone. RMC teamed up with Visit Billings, an organization that promotes tourism in Billings, to secure the bid to host the championship. Thirty-thousand dollars is the minimum amount that a school can bid to be eligible to host the championship. However, money is not the only factor taken into consideration by the NAIA. Location, features, and specialization of a school are also considered when a bid is placed.
Once Rocky put in their bid, a site-selection committee from the NAIA traveled to Billings and was shown around town. The committee enjoyed the venues that Billings has to offer. More importantly, they were impressed by how much support is given to RMC throughout the Billings community.
Bruce Parker, Athletic Director of Rocky, and one of the people who has worked on making this opportunity possible, is enthusiastic about the upcoming event. “We’re going to do everything to the best that we can do. Parker stated, “We have a lot of people in this town that have stepped up and said ‘we will help you.’” Parker believes that hosting this tournament will be a great way to show off the great institution that Rocky Mountain College is, as well as showing off the city of Billings.
Parker and his committee have dedicated a lot of time and planning to this event. He shared that the teams participating in the tournament will be greeted and met at the airport, will stay with a host throughout the week, and will also attend a banquet the evening before the tournament to bring all the teams and supporters together. “We’re going to make it a big time event for the student-athletes and the coaches. When they leave here they’ll say ‘wow, that’s the best national tournament that I’ve ever been to.’” Parker said, “There has been tremendous support from our campus, including support from Dr. Wilmouth and Brad Nason. Visit Billings has been phenomenal as a co-sponsor with us.”
A banquet will be held on Mar. 14 to bring the teams, coaches, and sponsors together. The event will be held at the Red Lion Hotel and Convention Center. Senior Marcell Bruski works for the Chamber of Commerce as an Event Assistant and has been working closely with Visit Billings to coordinate and organize the upcoming banquet. Bruski shared that it will be a rather upscale type of event and that over 700 people will be in attendance.
“All teams will be introduced by a DJ, everyone will receive gift bags, and there will also be a NAIA Hall of Fame award given out that night as well,” said Bruski.
The championship is important to Rocky’s women basketball team; however, it is not their sole focus. “Hosting the championship is exciting for the state of Montana, Billings, and of course Rocky. We’re the host team so our focus right now is playing our best basketball,” said Head Coach Wes Keller. “We want to make sure that we finish out the league strong. We want to make sure that we are getting better with each game we play.” The team has had several practices at Rimrock Auto Arena to help them become familiar with playing on a new court.
Tickets for the championships are available for purchase online through the Metra Park website and VisitBillings.com/naia. An All Tournament pass for students costs $38, a student day pass costs $8, and a one-day student ticket costs $5. Even though the tournament is off campus, students and other members of the RMC community are encouraged to go out and support the women’s basketball team.