Timeline of Quizbowl History

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c. 32 AD

Chapter 70 of Suetonius's Life of Tiberius describes the emperor peppering expert grammarians with mythological trivia such as "Who was the mother of Hecuba?," "What name did Achilles have among the girls?," and "What were the Sirens accustomed to singing?" In context, this anecdote takes place sometime between the death of Sejanus in 31 AD and Tiberius's own death in 37. While there are many prior examples in ancient literature of riddles and similar, this is the oldest known example of asking difficult factual questions of presumed educated people for the amusement of those involved.

Note that, even though Suetonius observed over 1900 years ago that such questions are taking knowledge of mythology "to a silly and laughable extreme" ("usque ad ineptias atque derisum"), at least the first two have come up in quizbowl on multiple occasions.

Early History


  • Information Please (a panel quiz show) debuts on NBC radio, hosted by Clifton Fadiman. The show will stay on radio until 1951. In the summer of 1952, it will appear on television.
    • On the 17 May, 1943 episode, Boris Karloff and Jan Struther became the first on the show to use buzzers, since they were calling in from Hollywood to New York and thus unable to raise their hands to answer.


  • Quiz Kids debuts on local Chicago radio. The show runs for 13 years, and other versions eventually pop up in New York, Canada, San Antonio, and Los Angeles. One of the early winners in Chicago is young James Watson, future Nobel laureate and co-discoverer of the double helix nature of DNA.


  • Campus Quiz debuts on Philadelphia radio. It appears to be the first interscholastic team-based quiz competition and involved high schools from in and around Philadelphia. It only seems to have run for one season.


The Beginning of the College Bowl era



  • Varsity Quiz Bowl for Louisiana high schools begins its run on WYES-TV. It is one of the first non-College Bowl quiz programs in the nation and ends in 1991 after 36 seasons.


  • G.E. College Bowl premiers on television on CBS. It moves to NBC in 1963.


  • October 7: It's Academic, a quiz show for Washington, DC-area high schools, debuts. It is currently the world's longest continuously running quiz show.
  • Reach for the Top begins on CBC affiliate Vancouver CBUT-TV, featuring Vancouver-area teams.



  • The first national Reach for the Top competition is held in Montreal. The event is nationally televised on CBC the following year.


  • Trans-World Top Team, a cooperation between CBC and BBC featuring Canadian and British teams, runs for its sole season


  • Varsity Quiz, a televised competition in Clark County, NV sponsored by the local Kiwanis club, begins. It is based on a contest in Anaheim, CA.



  • Knowledge Bowl is created by the San Juan County school board in Durango, Colorado

The Advent of the NCT


  • Fall: College Bowl recruits writers from the Atlanta-area quizbowl circuit to begin its campus program.





  • December 4: The first KMO virtual quiz competition is run by Academic Hallmarks. The contest continues to run annually until spring of 2013.


  • June 12-18: The sixth NAC is held in New Orleans, LA. This is the first of seven years in which the NAC is televised under the sponsorship of Texaco.
  • June 19-25: The Texaco Star National Academic Championship airs on The Discovery Channel.
  • June: The last Super Bowl and first NTAE are held

The Early Modern Era of college quiz bowl




  • June 11-17: The twelfth NAC is held in Houston, TX. The televised rounds are hosted by Mark L. Wahlberg as part of a syndication deal which turned out to be the final season of the televised show.
  • Summer: The seventh and final season of The Texaco Star National Academic Championship airs nationwide on various local PBS and commercial stations.



  • January 24-25: The first NAQT ICT is held at Penn. Chicago defeats Harvard in the final by powering the last tossup of an overtime tiebreaker.
  • April 20: Virginia defeats Harvard in a controversial College Bowl NCT final. Incidents during the game itself as well as the revocation of the promised winners' prize afterwards spur Virginia to immediately announce that it will not be participating in College Bowl in the future.
  • Fall: The first NAQT high school tournaments are hosted.

The Early Modern Era of high school quiz bowl


  • June 19-20: The first PACE NSC is held at Case Western. State College defeats Henry Ford II to claim the first high school quizbowl national title of the "modern era."
  • NAQT planned to host the first HSNCT this year, but it was canceled due to lack of interest.


  • April 24: Chicago wins ACF Nationals, completing the first Triple Crown season in history and finishing with an 88-0 record for their regular A team in non-College Bowl formats.
  • June 5-6: First HSNCT held at the University of Oklahoma, ending with Detroit Catholic Central defeating Walton for the title.



  • November 3: The first ACF Fall held. It is now the most widely played college set of the year.


  • June 12: Thomas Jefferson defeats State College in the PACE NSC final, completing what is still the only double-undefeated performance at HSNCT and NSC and an undefeated year in pyramidal formats.
  • Fall 2005: High school quizbowl starts in Canada.




  • April 26: Chicago defeats Brown in the finals of ACF Nationals following Brown's victory over Stanford in a play-in game, unifying the ICT and Nationals championships.
  • June: The last Panasonic NTAE is held without Panasonic's financial backing; the tournament collapses soon after.



  • May 7-8: The first MSNCT is held at Hyatt Regency O'Hare near Chicago.


  • March 20: NAQT announces that a website security review has found evidence of Andy Watkins accessing question material prior to three ICTs in which he participated. Four Harvard titles are revoked and Watkins is suspended from NAQT membership, resigning soon after.


  • April 12: Virginia wins ACF Nationals outright. With their win against Yale at ICT, they win both major collegiate championships, the first time the titles are unified since 2009.
  • May 3-4: First SSNCT held at the Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Mall of America
  • May 31-June 1: LASA defeats St. John's to win the 2014 HSNCT. At 272 teams, it is by far the largest quizbowl tournament ever held to that point.
  • June 14-17: NTAE is revived after a four-year hiatus. It would last two years before not being held in 2016.


  • May 7-8: Middlesex defeats Longfellow on the last tossup to win the 2016 MSNCT. With 160 teams, it is the largest middle school quizbowl tournament ever held.


  • May 26-28: The 2017 HSNCT takes place in Atlanta, GA, with Hunter College High School defeating Detroit Catholic Central in the final. 304 teams take part as the HSNCT breaks its own record for the largest single-site quizbowl tournament ever.


  • May 25–27: The 2018 HSNCT breaks the previous HSNCT's record as the largest single-site quiz bowl tournament ever, with 352 teams. (Through 2020, this has not been exceeded; the 2019 HSNCT had 336 teams.)


  • June 8-9: TJHSST wins against James E. Taylor at that year's PACE NSC to become the second school to win two NSCs back-to-back. The only other school to achieve this feat was State College, winning as defending champions in 1999, 2000, 2001, and 2011.


  • March-May: The COVID-19 pandemic prompts the cancellation of almost all in-person quizbowl events across the country, including the NAQT and PACE National Championships for 2020. The 2020 NAQT Community College Championship Tournament (February 28–29) is the only national championship held in person in 2020.
  • Summer-Fall: The quizbowl circuit shifts online with online quizbowl becoming the primary medium of practice and competition.
  • November 8: Alex Trebek, host of the gameshow Jeopardy!, passes away at the age of 80 after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. Alex had hosted the game show for nearly 36 years, and his work on the show can be cited as a reason for many players' interest in quizbowl.