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MSHSAA (The Missouri State High School Activities Association) is the organization responsible for running Missouri's district and state quizbowl championships, taking over the role from MACA in the 1995-96 season. Currently called "Scholar Bowl", before the 2010-2011 season, the activity was known as "Academic Competition."


Format and Distribution

The Missouri format consists of four quarters:

  • 1st quarter: 15 tossups
  • 2nd quarter: 10 tossups with bonuses
  • 3rd quarter: 15 tossups
  • 4th quarter: 10 tossups with bonuses

All tossups are worth 10 points; all bonuses are worth 20 points. Previously, they contained four parts worth five points each, but for the 2009-2010 season, the four part bonuses were changed to two part bonuses worth ten points each. There are no powers or negs. The maximum score in a MSHSAA game is thus 900.

The Missouri distribution consists of:

  • Science: 10/4
  • Math: 10/4
  • Social Studies: 10/4
  • Literature: 10/4
  • Fine Arts: 6/2
  • Miscellaneous/Vocational Education: 4/2

It was previously inaccurate to refer to either the format or the distribution as MSHSAA's, since both of them predate the organization's involvement in Missouri quizbowl. However, MSHSAA recently implemented a change by removing 3/1 Language Arts and adding those questions to the Fine Arts distribution. This change, combined with the change in bonus format, have made the current Missouri format uniquely MSHSAA's.

MSHSAA State Series Question Providers

MSHSAA and Quizbowl

While more Missouri schools have formed quizbowl teams since MSHSAA became involved, some people feel that MSHSAA is out of touch with the desires of quizbowl players. Notably, MSHSAA's liaison to scholar bowl, Stacy Schroeder, had no previous experience with quizbowl. Many players have complained that MSHSAA's insistence on applying the same regulations to quizbowl as they do to sports hold back the state's best teams. Examples of these rules include: limiting teams to 14 competitions per season, banning teams from traveling further than 250 miles out of state for regular-season tournaments (with limited exceptions), and restricting how teams can attend national competitions.

Benefits of MSHSAA's involvement with Quizbowl

The only real benefit of MSHSAA's involvement in Quiz Bowl has been to put in on the same footing as other more traditional activities such as athletics. Quiz Bowl's status as "a MSHSAA activity" helps grant it status lacking to other academic activities such as Science Olympiad, Chemistry Bowl, and Destination Imagination.

Criticism of MSHSAA's involvement with Quizbowl

Format and Question Provider Selection

A MSHSAA format game takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour to complete, which essentially prevents tournaments from using the bracketed round robin scheduling and offering of consolation rounds that is common with the 20 tossup-bonus format. As a result, nearly every tournament run in the MSHSAA format or a similar four-quarter format consists of approximately 3 preliminary rounds (either power-matched or randomly pre-determined) followed by a single elimination bracket of 4 to 16 teams. While tossup-bonus tournaments are becoming more common with the lack of well-written questions in MSHSAA format, many hosts still use MSHSAA-influenced scheduling principles.

The questions used at MSHSAA's events have traditionally been extremely short, and provided by companies that continue to promote bad quizbowl.

Questions were provided by Bryce Avery from 2005-2007. Previous providers include Champions and Straight A.

The 2008 questions, written by Shawn Pickrell, were more pyramidal and largely heralded as an improvement over Avery's questions. In April 2008, Pickrell, citing overextension, announced he would no longer provide questions in Missouri.

MSHSAA's decision to allow the national tournament question to come to a vote and to procure higher-quality questions for its tournaments were widely praised by the Missouri community. Unfortunately, these improvements did not continue. In yet another characteristic move to stifle the growth of good quizbowl, MSHSAA has awarded Questions Galore the bid to write the 2008-2009 state championship series. This led to many independent tournaments being run on sets by Questions Galore, which is a company plagued by awful writing, a severe lack of literature, use of math computation that is simply impossible to answer in the given time limits, a general disregard for any reasonable distribution, and overall ignorance of standard writing procedures in quizbowl.

MSHSAA selected NAQT to be the question provider for the 2011 districts and state series [1]. While this drastically improved the overall question quality, the first and third quarters still consist of speedcheck tossups due to the length of a game in the MSHSAA format, and the districts and state tournament formats still involve predetermined matchups and single-elimination playoffs.

Stacked districts

One problem with the MSHSAA championship series is the existence of districts or sectionals with multiple top teams due to their geographical proximity. Because only the winner of each sectional advances to the state finals, on multiple occasions this has resulted in the second best team in a class not advancing to state because the best team was in their district or sectional.


  • In the 2008-2009 season, Savannah moved up to Class 4 and was placed in District 16. Liberty and North Kansas City were placed in District 15, placing three of the top teams in the state that year in a pair of districts feeding into the same sectional, meaning it was only possible for one of the three to advance to the state tournament.
  • In the 2010-2011 season, Ladue, Clayton, and Villa Duchesne were ranked first, second, and fifth, respectively, in the midseason poll yet were all in Class 4 District 4. Rock Bridge and Jefferson City were ranked third and fourth in that poll and were both in the same district. This meant that only two of the top five ranked teams in the poll could advance to sectionals.


Until 2008, each class had been divided into 8 geographically-determined districts, with the winner of each district advancing to the state championship. For the 2009 championship series, districts were divided in two, with the winners of two adjacent districts meeting the following Thursday at a sectional meet, hosted by the odd-numbered district winner, playing a best 2-of-3 matchup to determine which team advances to state.

The proposal was received negatively on the Missouri Academic Competition Message Board. [2] While adding an additional level of competition with a best 2-of-3 format may marginally improve the fairness of competition, it adds additional transportation costs, room reservations, personnel overhead, and participant time that make the extra competition unreasonable. In one extreme case, if Kirksville had won its district at Marshall High School 120 miles away in 2009, the team would have had to travel another 200 miles each way to St. Charles County to play the District 7 champion the following Thursday. The longest travel distance to sectionals that actually occurred was Bradleyville's 230 mile drive each way to Bell City.

At least one coach has stated this change was made because many schools (especially smaller ones) have trouble staffing a tournament for the larger district size. This was not indicated during the discussion on the Missouri message board, but that doesn't change the fact that it does not improve the fairness of the MSHSAA championship series. In practice, it resulted in several districts with only two or three participating teams, and in the case of Class 2 District 9, perennial state champion Richland won by default as the other five teams decided not to participate.[3]

Restrictions on Participation

MSHSAA's definition of the Scholar Bowl season, as defined in the 2013-2014 MSHSAA Handbook, by-law 4.4.3, is:

4.4.3 Season Limits for Scholar Bowl: No senior high school or junior high school shall participate in an interscholastic scholar bowl event before the second Friday in October nor later than the date of the MSHSAA District Competition, exclusive of the MSHSAA state competition, other than the following allowances:
a. A school may participate in an interstate, interscholastic scholar bowl event which may begin no earlier than the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, only if the school has advanced from a qualifying event that takes place during the aforementioned season.
b. A school may participate in one interscholastic event following districts and prior to the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. Such an event shall count as one of the school’s allowable regular season events as per By-Law 4.4.2 (Limits on Participation) and must meet the travel regulations per By-Law 4.4.4.d.

Restrictions on Competitions Outside of the Regular Season

Through the 2008-2009 season, following the date of the District tournament, teams were prohibited from participating in any interscholastic competition except for the MSHSAA state series and national tournaments.

Shortly after the June 2009 Advisory Committee meeting, the Missouri Quizbowl Alliance learned that schools qualifying for a national tournament would be allowed to participate in one tournament between Districts and Nationals. As a result, MOQBA announced a pre-nationals tournament in which Missouri teams' participation would be subject to such a restriction. The wording of rule 4b, which implies that any team may participate in such a tournament, was not widely noticed until early May 2010. [4]. Even with this minor relaxation, Missouri teams are still almost entirely prohibited from playing in regular tournaments for half of the year.

Restrictions on National Competitions

To attend a national quizbowl competition, MSHSAA member schools must qualify at an event during the regular season. This means that Missouri teams cannot attend as a wildcard. Qualifying events have become more common as more higher-quality tournaments are run on reputable sets and affiliated with PACE. It was previously thought that schools had to be out of school before attending a national tournament, but the 2009-2010 handbook clarified that qualifying teams are permitted to attend national tournaments that occur on or after Memorial Day weekend.

In the past, this rule was ambiguous, but in 2007 member schools voted between three options to make the definition more precise. These options were:

  • The academic competition season should end with the state tournament and participation beyond this date should not be interscholastic (participants could not represent their school). (91 votes)
  • Interscholastic academic competition should be allowed to continue into and throughout the summer. (55 votes)
  • A school academic competition team should be allowed to participate in a summertime national interscholastic competition only if the school has advanced from a qualifying event that takes place during the academic year. (130 votes)

The winning option, which allows attendance at national tournaments but only by qualifying, was later approved in another vote by MSHSAA member schools and exists as by-law 4.4.3.a in the 2013-2014 MSHSAA Handbook.

250-mile rule

Matching the rules for MSHSAA's sport activities, teams generally may not attend any tournament further than 250 air miles from the borders of Missouri. Up until about 2010, teams were entirely prohibited from attending tournaments outside this radius. The rule was barely relaxed after the Academic Competition Advisory Committee recommended an amendment in 2008 allowing teams to travel to one tournament outside of the 250-mile radius. [5] This rule change took effect in either the 2009-2010 or 2010-2011 season.

The applicable MSHSAA by-law as of the 2013-2014 season is:

4.4.4.d. A school may participate in any approved interscholastic scholar bowl event within the state during the interscholastic season. During the season, a school may travel to the site of one out of state tournament or invitational meet per year beyond 250 air-miles from the perimeter (border) of the state of Missouri, with the date and location to be determined by the local school administration. All remaining tournaments and invitationals must fall within 250 air-miles from the state border.

Enforcement of MSHSAA Rules at Regular Season Tournaments

Beginning in the 2012-2013 season, MSHSAA now requires all regular season tournaments to follow certain rules in the MSHSAA Scholar Bowl rule book. Rules now required for all in-state tournaments include:

  • Players must be recognized by name before giving an answer or the answer will be ruled incorrect. [C.1.c]
  • MSHSAA tossup timing: 5 seconds to buzz in at the end of a question, 3 seconds to begin a significant answer after being recognized, with an additional 7 seconds to complete the answer (for a total of 10 seconds). [C.1.b]
  • Bonus answers must come from the captain, unless the captain explicitly defers to another teammate by name. [C.2.a]

The Charlie Dees Rule

In May 2008 the Academic Competition Advisory Committee approved a resolution that the 2009 Area Meetings discuss adopting By-Law 292.0, informally known as the "Charlie Dees Rule", which states:


During the season a student represents his or her school by competing in an interscholastic contest:

a. He or she shall neither practice nor compete as a member of a non-school team or as an individual participant in organized non-school competition that meets the MSHSAA academic competition definition. A competition shall be considered "organized" if any of the following conditions exist: competition is scheduled and publicized in advance, official score is kept, individual or team standings are maintained, official timer or game officials are used, admission is charged, teams are regularly formed or team rosters are predetermined, squad members are dressed in team uniforms or a team is privately or commercially sponsored. Further, competition which is either directly or indirectly sponsored, promoted or administered by an individual, organization, or any other agency shall be considered organized.

b. A student shall not have competed at any time as a member of a junior college or a senior college team if he or she desires to compete in academic competition in high school.

c. A student who joins a school team for the first time must have abided by these restrictions beginning with the first day of the current season."

Specifically, this rule is intended to prevent students from competing "with and against collegiate students", and it is thought that the motivation behind this rule is that several coaches viewed Charlie Dees' desire to get better at quizbowl, especially through playing with and against better players, was somehow inherently unfair.

This rule, as with all rules unreasonably banning quizbowl-playing students from participating in quizbowl, was met with severe backlash on the hsquizbowl forums.

Fortunately, at the 2008-2009 MSHSAA Area Meetings, the proposal was overwhelmingly defeated by the assembled superintendents, principals, athletic directors, and other administrative personnel from 510 MSHSAA member schools who attended. Seven of the eight sites were 100% opposed, while no percentage of opposition was listed for the eighth, while that site's comment ("Athletics is safety") didn't make much sense. Reasons cited were the ambiguity of the rule and its possible encroachment on Trivia Night-like activities and the fact that such a restriction limits students' opportunities to learn. [6]

Treated like a sport

The only response MSHSAA ever gives to criticism of its handling of quiz bowl is that the same rules apply to sports; thus, it should apply to Scholar Bowl as well. Notably, in the discussion of the Sectionals proposal, Jeremy Gibbs, former president of MACA and the Missouri forum's primary source of MSHSAA information at the time, repeatedly implied that the justification for a sectionals system as opposed to one with the top two teams in a district advancing to the next stage of competition is that the latter "is not how any other sport works." [7] However, the system used for Cross Country, in which multiple teams from Districts advance to sectionals, is similar to improved systems proposed on the Missouri board. [8]

State Championship Results

Note: Prior to 1996, a state tournament was hosted by the Missouri Academic Association.

Year Class 4 Champion Class 4 Second Place Class 3 Champion Class 3 Second Place Class 2 Champion Class 2 Second Place Class 1 Champion Class 1 Second Place
1996 North Kansas City Raytown Cuba Lexington Richland South Callaway Mound City Pilot Grove
1997 North Kansas City Kirksville Cuba New Madrid Co. Central Richland Lockwood Mound City North Shelby
1998 North Kansas City North County Cuba Lexington Richland North Platte Mound City North Shelby
1999 North Kansas City Blue Springs Priory Lexington Richland Elsberry Mound City Pilot Grove
2000 Nixa Savannah Boonville Cameron Richland Lincoln Koshkonong Thomas Jefferson
2001 Nixa Liberty Salem Savannah Richland Lincoln Koshkonong Thomas Jefferson
2002 Cape Girardeau Central Parkway Central Savannah Priory Bernie Purdy Thomas Jefferson Mound City
2003 Liberty Parkway Central Savannah Montgomery County Richland Bernie Thomas Jefferson St. Joseph Christian
2004 Parkway Central Liberty Savannah Westminster Christian Richland Viburnum Mound City Thomas Jefferson
2005 Liberty Parkway Central Westminster Christian Savannah Richland Barstow Thomas Jefferson St. Joseph Christian
2006 Ladue Liberty Savannah Westminster Christian Richland McAuley Catholic Thomas Jefferson Tarkio
2007 North Kansas City St. Louis University High John Burroughs Savannah Richland College Heights Christian Thomas Jefferson Bradleyville
2008 North Kansas City Kirksville Notre Dame Priory Richland Plattsburg Thomas Jefferson St. Joseph Christian
2009 Ladue North Kansas City Priory Notre Dame Richland St. Paul Lutheran Tarkio Leeton
2010 Kirksville Ladue Priory Smithville Barstow St. Paul Lutheran Heartland St. Joseph Christian
2011 Ladue Rock Bridge Savannah Centralia Richland Barstow Heartland Mound City
2012 Ladue Rock Bridge Savannah Priory Barstow Richland Mound City Columbia Independent
2013 Ladue Hickman Priory Hallsville Saxony Lutheran Richland Thomas Jefferson Pilot Grove

An outdated list of tournament records, which is printed in the state tournament program, is also available on the Missouri Academic Competition Message Board. Several of these records have been broken in recent years.