VHSL Scholastic Bowl
The Virginia High School League, which governs Virginia public-school participation in extracurricular activities including sports and academic contests, began offering a Scholastic Bowl title in 1998. The three-class system was in effect through the 2012-2013 year. Beginning in 2013-2014, thanks to the 2014 VHSL Realignment, new conferences and a six-class state tournament were implemented.
From the time of Scholastic Bowl's inception to the end of the 2012-2013 year, the VHSL classified schools into groups A, AA, and AAA based primarily on school size. Many schools played up or down from where their size would dictate in order to be in the same division as geographically nearby opponents. Both Maggie Walker and Thomas Jefferson were required by rule to play in Group AAA in academic activities regardless of school size. This system was eliminated in the 2014 VHSL Realignment.
Each district produced two teams to send to regionals. 44 of the 46 districts in VHSL participated in Scholastic Bowl.
Each of the four regional tournaments sent its top two teams to the state championship. The state championship consisted of the top eight teams (in each enrollment class) playing a double-elimination tournament. The state championship was held at Charlottesville High School in 1998 and at William & Mary from 1999 onwards.
Performance in Scholastic Bowl and other academic activities sponsored by VHSL (including debate, and forensics) counts towards a school's standing in the Wachovia Cup in Academics, an overall title awarded to the school with the best performance in all non-athletic VHSL events. There is also a Wachovia Cup for Athletics.
Districts are now used only for the optional regular season. Postseason play begins in Conferences. Conferences each send two teams to Regionals, and each Regional, of which there are two per class, sends two teams to the state tournament. The state tournament involves each of the six classes playing a four-team, three-game round robin; three-way ties will be broken on total points (not played off) under the announced system.
The new classes are known as 6A, 5A, 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A. Magnet schools no longer play up in the highest class for academic competitions, and instead play in the class that their enrollment size dictates.
In a more minor change, conferences and regions are now required to choose from either a round-robin or double-elimination format and may not design their own formats.
Leadership & Questions
The tournament was first written and directed by Claude Sandy, a retired Academic Decathlon administrator with no prior connection to quizbowl. Tournaments in his purview were noted for recycling questions and having less than 2 literature questions in an average match, most of which are on repetitive pet topics such as Zane Grey and the fact that Leo Tolstoy held the noble rank of "count."
In 2001, Shawn Pickrell took over as Commissioner and chief question writer. He implemented a strategy by which Regionals and States (but not the regular season or Districts) gradually became more pyramidal and the stated subject distribution of the packets was roughly followed.
The format used in VHSL matches consists of a round of fifteen tossups, ten "directed questions" for each team which bounce back, and a concluding phase of fifteen more tossups. Tossups are scored in the normal quizbowl way. Directed questions are worth 10 points each and function similarly to a single-part bonus, but their reading is not correlated to answering tossups.
Origin of the format
The format is somewhat based on the format of the Mountain Academic Competition Conference and the Southwest Virginia Academic Conference, two local organizations which ran quizbowl competitions prior to the formation of Scholastic Bowl. The format is not used at any non-Scholastic Bowl events (nearly all independent events in Virginia use standard ACF format).
As the VHSL is an organization of public schools, such longstanding Virginia programs as St. Christopher's, Collegiate, and St. Anne's have been unable to participate in VHSL tournaments or compete for the state title. Such schools are eligible for the NAQT Virginia Championship. B teams are not eligible for VHSL participation.