Atendido-Matthews FAQ List

From QBWiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Atendido/Matthews FAQ list was compiled to answer several Frequently Asked Questions about college bowl and posted to and news.answers newsgroups. It was first edited by Pat Matthews and later updated by George Atendido. Atendido later updated the FAQ in October 1997, which can still be found on the George Washington quizbowl website (but as that hasn't been updated since 2002 who knows how much longer it's going to stay up).

With the exception of some formatting and a few notes about things that no longer exist (marked with "[WIKI NOTE]", I have changed nothing from the original versions from May 1996. I have left the original e-mail addresses in the FAQ list intact, but there is no guarantee that those addresses still exist or that they belong to the person mentioned as having that address. Also, due to the gigantic page size (this is apparently over 80 kb), this page only consists of the May 1996 FAQ; the October 1997 FAQ, which Atendido significantly changed (especially due to the inception of NAQT and the mass CBI de-affiliations that year), has its own page.


Frequently Asked Questions

The Frequently Asked Questions list

Edited by: George Atendido (

Formerly Edited by: Patrick Matthews Contributors (in no particular order): Pat Matthews, Jennie Rosenbaum, Mark Ruzon, Tom Michael, Carole Chang, Peter Freeman, Richard Dunlap, Randy Buehler, Mike Simon, Sendhil Revuluri, Peter McCorquodale, Vishnu Jejjala, Ted Schuerzinger, Doug Bone, Paul Harm, John Kuchenbrod, Rick Grimes, Shawn Askew, Ramesh Kannappan, Jim Dendy, Mike Haynes, Gaius Stern, John Palmatier, Joe Neff, Tom Waters, Matt Colvin, Craig Leff, Gary Greenbaum, Lillian Parker, Samer Ismail, Julie Stahlhut, David Tuttle

Comments? Suggestions? Send them to George Atendido at See #17 for guidelines on submissions.

Note1: This is a trial release, meant to explore how to crosspost this FAQ to news.answers, and the services provided for posts to news.answers. This release was originally meant for June, but the moderators of news.answers got back to me faster than I anticipated. The next guaranteed release is the first week of July.

Note2: A lot of info in here may be dated or incorrect. Future releases will include corrected info, as well as some format changes.

Note3: the central website is now back up. Its URL is

<> [WIKI NOTE: The preceding URL no longer exists]



Changed answers are marked with an *
List of question subjects:
0. What is College Bowl, and do I have to bring my own ball
1. How to get info about tournaments
2. Differences between College Bowl and ACF
2a. Other formats available
2b. What are the rules for the various formats
2c. What is "blitzing"
3. Who can play
4. What kind of questions are asked
4a. What is "trash"
5. What's the difference between College Bowl and Jeopardy!
5a. How do I become a Jeopardy! contestant
6. Is there a College Bowl contact list
6a. Are there any "special interest" CB/ACF mailing lists
7. How did College Bowl start
8. What makes a question "good"
9. How to recruit people and/or start a club
9a. How to run the campus tournament
10. What equipment is needed
*10a. Whom can I buy equipment from
11. How schools can acquire questions
11a. How do I write questions
12. Who gets to play at Regionals
12a. What are the regional breakdowns
*12b. Who won the CB RCT's in 1994-95
*13. Past national champions
13a. How does a school get to the Nationals
14. Which schools normally host tournaments and when are they
14a. How does my school go about hosting a tournament
14b. What is the license fee controversy about
15. Are there any books available on CB/ACF
15a. Is there a CB/ACF history/historian on the net
16. How are CB/ACF players ranked
16a. How are statistics kept
16b. What are "VVB's"
16c. What are "CUR's"
*17. What are the policies for FAQ submission

List of abbreviations:
ACF Academic Competition Foundation--alternate quiz bowl format
ACUI Association of College Unions Int'l--partners with CBI
CB College Bowl, the game
CBI College Bowl Co., Inc.
HCASC Honda Campus All Star Challenge
HSB High School Bowl
IM Intramural tournament or Campus Tournament
J! Jeopardy!, the TV quiz show
NCT National Championship Tournament
RCT Regional Championship Tournament

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& DISCLAIMERS & COPYRIGHT &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

Any prices quoted in this FAQ were accurate at the time they were added, but are subject to change without notice. The editor will try to stay current with the prices for most items, but to get the most recent prices, please consult the appropriate companies.

The editor strives to make this document as objective as possible, and except where the opinion of a specific person(s) is noted to make the answers herein accurately reflect the consensus of the readership of

Opinions expressed within, except where noted, are not necessarily the opinions of the editor and the contributors, nor of the institutions or organizations the editor and contributors represent. Material in this document should not be construed as legal advice.


(c) Copyright 1996, George Atendido, all rights reserved. This document may be redistributed, provided that it remains in its entirety, including all attributions, the disclaimer, and this copyright notice, and that no cost is charged for its distribution.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&& END DISCLAIMERS & COPYRIGHT &&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&&


(0) What is College Bowl, and do I have to bring my own ball?

CB is a game in which two teams face off, earning points by answering questions covering every conceivable category of human knowledge. CB, ACF, and HCASC rules stipulate no more than four players per side, but other formats may have different rules.

There are two types of questions, tossups and bonuses (boni). Tossups must be answered individually, i.e. without the aid of a teammate. The first person to "ring in" attempts to answer the question. If a player correctly answers a tossup, his/her team earns a bonus question. The entire team is allowed to work together to answer bonus questions.

CB is dubbed "The Varsity Sport of the Mind," so the only reason to bring a ball is to toss it around with teammates in between matches.


(1) How do I get information about tournaments (school or ACUI)?

Campus tournaments at your school are generally held by your school's Student Activities office or by your school's College Bowl club/program/whatever. These tournaments are typically intramural in nature, but each school may have its own participation rules. The best way to find out the dates and locations of your school's campus tournament is to call your student activities office and ask who the contact is for College Bowl. If you cannot find your school's contact that way, call CBI at 1-800-234-BOWL (or 818-788-4103 if you're in the area). If your school has an official contact, they will be able to tell you who this person is, and will more than likely have an office number and phone number.

(Note: the above only applies to schools affiliated with CBI. If your school plays only ACF or some different format not affiliated with CBI, there may or may not be an intramural or similar event at your school.)

In addition, many schools host intercollegiate tournaments, in which many schools send teams to compete. Unlike the CB RCT, schools are usually allowed to enter more than one team in these invitationals. In the past, invitations were usually snail-mailed to a school's College Bowl coordinator. Nowadays, more tournaments are announced via email and this newsgroup, and some tournaments have abandoned snail-mail altogether. Normally, to participate, a school must pay a fee and submit a packet of questions for each team it enters. In addition, at invitational tournaments, rules of play are often modified versions rather than strict versions of CB or ACF rules.

To get a list of invitational tournaments, email Mike Starsinic of Ohio State at


(2) What is the difference between CB and ACF?

CB is an academic quiz game created by Don Reid which pits two teams of four players each against each other. The game is now administered by CBI in partnership with ACUI.

ACF is a similar game created a couple of years ago by a few schools, mostly in the Southeast. This group created the ACF format because they were dissatisfied with the CB format and with CBI. The ACF proponents have attempted to create a more academically rigorous format, a reaction to what they claim to be softness in official CBI questions. In addition, the ACF founders sought a format with lower costs and fewer restrictions on student eligibility.

There are numerous and vociferous adherents to each camp, and a great many people are comfortable with both formats. Rather than seeing each format in an adversarial light, these people look at the difference in formats as an opportunity to sample two different but not mutually exclusive formats. While the RCT's for CB and ACF strictly follow their own formats, most invitationals combine elements of both formats. [WIKI NOTE: This was written before the mass de-affiliation following the 1997 NCT, which caused a major rift between the two camps. ACF and CBI are mutually adversarial. NAQT, which had not been founded at the time of this FAQ, has its own supporters, who dislike and are disliked by ACF and CBI supporters, though not as much as the two camps hate each other]

The rules for CB and ACF have some similarities. Both are based on individual games involving two teams of four players each. There are two types of questions: toss-ups and bonuses. A toss-up question is read first. If a player signals and answers the toss-up correctly, the player's team receives 10 points, and is read a bonus question which only that team has a chance to answer. If the player answers the toss-up incorrectly, a player from the opposing team may signal and answer. A five point penalty is assessed against the team if the player signals to interrupt the toss-up while the question is being read, and gives a wrong answer; otherwise there is no penalty for guessing. Players work individually on toss-ups, but work together as a team to answer the bonus questions. Toss-up questions require single answers and are worth 10 points each; bonus questions may require single or multiple answers, and have a maximum value of 30 points.



Time: 7-minute halves (8 minutes in HCASC) 20 questions, untimed
Recognition: Wait until called, either by name or number. Varies by tournament. Usually not enforced.
Graduate students: Official team may only have one. (Was supposed to have been reviewed for 94-95 season, but no final decision was announced.) no limit on grad participation
Eligibility: 6 years of RCT or NCT play. Must be a registered, for-credit student For RCT and NCT play, until a terminal degree (i.e., a Ph.D.) is earned. Non-credit courses count for eligibility
How to get to Nationals: (see question 13a) Win your RCT (geographic representation) Finish in the top three at one of the ACF Regionals; or host a tourney with 8 schools or more; or request a wild-card (good schools with bad travel funds); or host the ACF regional; or win an ACF-registered tournament (registration done by contacting the ACF ahead of time)...(non-geographic representation) [Note: these are subject to change, depending on the cap on size of field]
How may [sic] teams may go to the RCT/NCT?: One per school As many as you can qualify
Intramural Tourney: Required (all team members must play at least one game) Not required
Question buying: At least 10 packets at a full cost of $62.50 a piece to be allowed into regionals (these packets are used for the intramural). Early order and quantity order discounts can bring price down to $50 for established programs and $43.75 for new programs. [Note: prices are subject to change] Not required
Types of questions:
Speed-oriented pop fluff, some gems hidden inside, more "everyday experience" questions, whatever that means.
Mix of categories tends to be very consistent in CBI packets, less so at invitationals
Relies on a few professional question writers
Deeper, more rigorous. Little current events or pop culture.
Packet consistency varies by tournament.
Relies on submissions from (hopefully) talented amateurs, though this may change somewhat in the near future for RCTs and the NCT.
Vague lead-in followed by concrete clue, which means many questions can be survival of the quickest.
Requires an intramural tournament, getting the whole campus involved.
Can be insipidly easy.
We pay their salaries. Graduate students may participate, but one per team rule limits their involvement.
Questions can be too long. A typical CB player from Joe Schmo St. would think they are too hard.
Does not require an intramural.
Can be impossibly obscure.
Nationals is like any other invitational, no Radio, TV, or awards banquets. Lack of eligibility limit may allow "dinosaurs" to continue playing for years.
The program is still in its growing stages.
Been around since 1953, it's the leader.
Puts on a good show for Nationals.
ACUI partnership gives it the support of many student union administrators nationwide
Requires an intramural tournament, getting the whole campus involved.
Allows grads a competitive forum.
ACF was founded by and is run by many well-established school programs and players nationwide
Does not require an intramural.
Quote from the other side:
"Too much fluff!"
"Face it, State U. would wipe Tech why can't they play at Nationals?"
"None of that timed-match excitment [sic]!"

As far as information about how to sign up with the ACF goes, you can contact Vishnu Jejjala at or Jim Dendy at

Schools are encouraged to participate in both formats.

[WIKI NOTE: CBI now has 8-minute halves at RCT and NCT. The prices for CBI intramural packets have changed. ACF Nationals is now open to any interested school. Schools are no longer encouraged to participate in CBI except by CBI partisans.]


(2a) What other quiz bowl formats are available?

[adapted after Lillian Parker]
HONDA CAMPUS ALL STAR CHALLENGE (new format, effective 1995-96 season)

Honda Campus All Star Challenge (HCASC) is a version of CB for historically black colleges and universities (HBCU). Currently, 87 HBCU's are eligible for HCASC play at the campus program level. Of these, the first 64 teams to complete the following requirements are invited to play in the NCT:

-Completion of campus program/tournament with a minimum of 10 teams/40 students participating.
-Turning in scoresheets from all campus tournament games
-Turning in Campus Tournament evaluation/questionnaire
-Turning in Team Sign-up forms
-Turning in National Registration forms.

The Sectional Play-Offs no longer exist. The National Championship Tournament has been expanded to a field of 64 teams. The Nationals will be conducted in two phases:

1. Preliminary round-robin (8 teams/group) narrows the field to 16.
2. A single elimination tournament will determine the Champion.

The Nationals are scheduled for March 28 - April 1, 1996 and will be held in Orlando. Unlike past HCASC NCT's, the 1996 tournament will not be televised. [WIKI NOTE: Most of the above information is no longer correct. Please see the wiki page on HCASC for updated information]

American Honda sponsors the program, and provides $305,000 in grants distributed among all participating schools.

HCASC uses the standard CB rules, except that each half is eight minutes long in NCT play, seven minutes at the campus level. Although generally balanced, the questions place a heavy emphasis on African-American culture and history. The televised portions feature several audio-visual and/or tactile questions each game.

Many questions used in CB official play are also used in HCASC. Schools participating in HCASC may not play in any other tournament. HCASC also has its own newsgroup,

For more information on HCASC, call CBI at 1-800-234-BOWL (or 818-788-4103). The past HCASC champs are listed in the answer to question 13.


Kentucky College Quick Recall League (John Kuchenbrod)
The prize Kentucky colleges compete for. Often held the same weekend as the CBI RCT, it's occasionally blamed for Kentucky schools not showing up at the Region 5 RCT. Tourneys are held on various weekends throughout the year, with a final tourney on or about April. 20 Tossups and a varied number of bonuses each half; there is no change in difficulty between tossups and bonuses. Each is worth 2 points, with a -1 for interrupting the tossup. Nice twists are subs at halftime and during time-outs that can be called after bonuses or incorrect tossups.


International Food Technologists College Bowl
Sponsored by the Institute of Food Technologists. Questions deal with food science and technology. Hosts regional competitions leading to a national championship. Any relationship of this "College Bowl" to CBI is unknown.


The Linnaean Games [after Julie Stahlhut]

The Linnaean Games are a series of quiz matches held at regional and national meetings of the Entomological Society of America. Most Linnaean Games players are graduate students in university entomology and zoology departments, but undergrad players sometimes participate. Also, current Linnaean Games rules allow non-students to play if they have graduated within the past year.

Tossup questions are usually science-oriented, concentrating on insect taxonomy, morphology, and physiology, and on pest control. Bonus questions can include both science questions and those pertaining to other fields such as insect imagery in the arts.

Linnaean questions have never been written to CBI/ACF standards, and "hosings" are common. However, the games are played in good fun; the preliminaries are run at ESA regional meetings, and the top two teams from each regional play for the national championship at the ESA national conference every December.

Linnaean may lack the polish of standard buzzer games, but where else can a bug-fancier follow up a quick tossup on sexual selection in moths with a bonus on "I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died"? [end attribution]


Possibly defunct:

Glorieta Bowl (Challenge?)
Televised ~1988 on a religious channel in Montgomery, AL, perhaps elsewhere. Matches have t's and b's, timed rounds. All questions related to religion (60%) or football (40%). Schools participating in the matches seen by the contributor were private religious schools in Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico.



College Mad House
Hosted by Greg Kinnear in his pre-Talk Soup days, syndicated by Warner. Teams squared off in a combined trivia game/obstacle course(!). Lasted one season.

Campus Challenge
Sponsored by World Affairs Television. Featured 8 American and 8 Canadian teams in a single elimination tournament, ultimately won by Harvard University. Taped in September, 1994, it was meant in the U.S. for PBS stations, and ended up being broadcast in very few markets. The organizers had never run a tournament before and encountered many problems, some of which appear on the show. A tape of the first match, featuring a lockout system that didn't lock out and a confused moderator, is the Grail of video collectors.

University Challenge--see Question 7.



CBI also runs High School Bowl. HSB is identical in format to CB, except that questions tend to be a bit easier. For more information on HSB, call CBI's toll-free number, 1-800-234-BOWL.

It must be stated here that many colleges conduct quiz tournaments for high school players, and that there are about a bazillion high school formats, many of which are similar to CB, but only HSB has official ties to CBI.


(2b) What are the rules of the various formats?

The official College Bowl rules appear in the College Bowl Information Guide. As this Guide is copyrighted material, it would be inappropriate to reproduce this information in toto. For a copy of the rules, call CBI (1-800-234-BOWL).

ACF rules were passed out at the 1995 RCT's and NCT, but have not been made electronically available. The editor does not know of any plans to make these rules electronically available. [WIKI NOTE: The ACF rules have been updated as of December 2007 and have been made electronically available.]


(2c) What is "blitzing"?

In CB, players are exhorted to be as precise as possible in their answers. In general, unless the question specifically asks otherwise, a player may offer only one piece of information in his/her answer. Players sometimes try to give two or more related facts in their answer. This practice is called "blitzing". For example, if a question begins "On June 6, 1944...", a player might ring in and say "The D-Day invasion occurred on the Sword, Juno, Omaha, Gold, and Utah beachheads of Normandy, France". Such an answer would be ruled incorrect, as stated in Rule 26:

"....The Moderator and Judge must determine if the player has pinpointed the answer, giving _clear and precise knowledge_ [emphasis CBI's] of the information requested, or if the player is just rattling off a list of related facts in an effort to hit the required answer...."

Blitzes are permitted in official CB play only under Rule 29, the so-called "creator/creation" rule. In brief, when a question deals with "created" artistic works (novels, plays, paintings, sculpture, music, etc. but NOT film) or scientific works (theorems/-ies, inventions), a player can give both the "creator" and the "creation". If either is the sought-for answer, the creator/creation pair is correct, and the two were given by the player without a discernible pause, the player's answer is correct.

Occasionally, players can give answers that appear to be blitzes, but really aren't. For example, a question could begin: "Amalthea, Io, Ganymede..." If a player rang in at that point and said "moons of Jupiter", he would be correct even if the sought-for answer was "Jupiter", as the player demonstrated "clear and precise knowledge" without spewing out a list of possible answers.

In ACF, however, the situation is drastically different. A full treatment is provided in the rules used for the 1995 ACF NCT. According to this rule, a player may give several related pieces of information so long as:

1. The entire chain of information is correct. That is, in the D-Day example above, if the player had said "Nebraska" instead of "Utah", the whole answer is invalidated. and

2. The player is not simply rattling off a list of answers of the same class. I.e., the player can say "Jefferson defeated John Adams in election of 1800", but s/he can't rattle off a list of Presidents. and

3. One of the proffered pieces of information is that which the question sought.

Some invitationals have sought a middle ground, allowing "two related pieces of information". In effect, such a rule works pretty much like the ACF rule, except that the number of related pieces of information is strictly limited.


(3) Do you have to be an undergrad to play, or are grad students / staff / unaffiliated people OK?

That depends. Many schools do not restrict graduate student participation for their campus tournament, but some do. The same goes for staff members. Most schools do not allow non-students to play in their campus tournaments. However, participation in intercollegiate invitationals is entirely at the discretion of the host school. CBI only allows one graduate student on the team that each school sends to the RCT and NCT, while ACF does not restrict graduate students at all. As stated before, the final say on who gets to play goes to the host school for *any* tournament except CB RCT and NCT.

Some schools host "masters" tournaments that are open to *everyone*. These tournaments are usually conducted in the summer. In the summer of 1995, there were "masters" tournaments in Knoxville (The Masters), Minneapolis (Paul Bunyan), and Philadelphia (The Philadelphia Experiment).

In addition to these "masters" tournaments, some schools have held "trash" tourneys, which are generally open to anyone. During the 1994-95 season, "trash" events were held by Vanderbilt and Williams. For a description of "trash", see question 4a.


(4) What kind of questions are asked?

Questions span the entire range of human knowledge. A typical round should have questions on history, literature, the arts, social science, "hard" science and/or mathematics, mythology/philosophy/religion, problem solving, current events/politics, sports, and pop culture (some categories may have been left out unintentionally).

Question content varies slightly between CB and ACF. CB questions tend to be structured so that most of the players should know the answers to tossups read in their entirety, while ACF questions tend to be more obscure in nature. For an example, a CB tossup might read, "This US President had the longest Inauguration Address, but caught pneumonia during the ceremony and died a few weeks later. For ten points, name him, the hero of Tippecanoe."
(A: William Henry Harrison)

An ACF tossup on the same subject would read: "George Badger was his Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Ewing was his Treasury Secretary, and Francis Granger was his Postmaster General; but it was Secretary of State Daniel Webster who persuaded this President to leave many references to Imperial Rome out of the inauguration speech. For ten points, identify this Whig President."

This is just an hypothetical example :) [WIKI NOTE: ACF questions are longer than in the example. A modern ACF question on William Henry Harrison would probably end "Succeeded by John Tyler after dying in office, for ten points, identify this ninth U.S. President.", which is a more gettable last sentence than either of the two above examples]


(4a) What is "trash"?

"Trash" subjects are generally considered to be current events, sports, pop culture, and some parts of the "general knowledge" catch-all. The use of the word "trash" in reference to these subjects was originally derogatory, but "trash-lovers" have reclaimed the word, and many label themselves "trash-mesiters" [sic] or similarly with pride.


(5) What is the difference between CB and Jeopardy!?

First, the obvious: Jeopardy! is a game show that appears on TV, and CB is a quiz game that is no longer on TV.

OK, now we'll get serious. Jeopardy! is an individual game, CB is a team game. Also, in J! the difficulty of the "answers" supposedly increases with the dollar amounts, while in CB the difficulty of the questions supposedly remains level throughout the match. In addition, the CB questions are generally harder than J! questions: the average CB tossup read in its entirety would rate at or above the $600 level on J!. Another huge difference between CB and J!: in J!, you must wait until Alex Trebeck [sic] finishes reading to buzz in, while in CB you can buzz in at any time while or after the question is read.


(5a) How does one become a Jeopardy! contestant?

This question really isn't related to CB per se, but it gets asked a lot, so here goes:

To be a regular contestant on J!, the information line is 310-280-5367, and the line is operated Mondays through Fridays from 10:00am-4:30pm Pacific time. J! also runs Teen, College, and Senior tournaments. To be a contestant in these, you are supposed to mail postcards to specified addresses. Names are then drawn to see who tries out for The Show. Since the Editor does not know these addresses, he suggests that those interested in one of the special tourneys call the general information number.

In addition, J! now has a WWW home page, where one can find out contestant and spectator information. The address is: [WIKI NOTE: The link does not exist. Might I suggest instead?]


(6) Is there a contact list of CB club presidents?

Actually, there is a list maintained for contacts for CB and ACF programs nationwide. The current custodian of this list is Paul Harm ( For a copy of the contacts list, email him, or download it from the FTP site (directory group/college-bowl/FAQ).

Also, to send mail to the whole list, mail your message to: +dist+~dionysos/dlists/

[WIKI NOTE: Like so many things, this has completely changed since 1996. Might I suggest the Maize Pages instead?]


(6a) Are there any "special interest" CB/ACF mailing lists?

Gaius Stern publishes the West Coast Newsletter. It's geared primarily toward schools West of the Mississippi, but there are some articles of general interest. To subscribe, email Gaius at

In addition, HCASC has its own newsgroup,

[WIKI NOTE: To the best of my knowledge, both of these are defunct.]


(7) How did CB start?

"College Bowl was created by Don Reid." Started on Radio in 1953, ended on television in 1970 (after giving up an afternoon slot for a shot at prime time as a summer replacement series), continued on CBS Radio with Art Fleming as host until about 1983. Its main TV sponsor was General Electric. Of its three TV hosts, Allen Ludden was its most famous.

Until 1977, teams played whomever was scheduled to appear next week. A team that won five consecutive games was proclaimed an undefeated champion, given a silver bowl, and, during the television era, banned from further TV appearances for three years. The national champion format started with the joint venture with ACUI around 1977. This format has been televised once by NBC and for two years by Disney.

There has been talk from time to time about taking CB to an international level, but the last time this happened was in 1979, when national champs Davidson College took on the English champs. Some suspect that American colleges would have a hard time competing against many foreign schools, whose students tend to be both older and more experienced in their fields than their American counterparts.

(Mostly after Craig Leff)
There is an English counterpart to CB. It's called University Challenge, and it airs on Granada Television. It had been on hiatus, but now it's back, though the long-time host Bamber Gascoigne is not. Why he is not back is not explained, but the new host is Jeremy Paxman, a well-liked newsman and interviewer. For more information on game play in University Challenge, see the section on the University Challenge Quiz Book in Question 15.


(8) What makes a question "good"? (See also Question 11a.)

A good question is one that is both fair and moves from obscurity to clarity.

A question is "fair" if it is not intentionally misleading. An example of a misleading question is: "Giants Stadium is the only stadium home to two NFL teams, but for ten points, name the only state home to two Federal Reserve Banks." This question is unfair because the two pieces of information, Giants Stadium and the Federal Reserve, are totally unrelated. This question would have been "fair", however, if it had asked which teams played in Giants Stadium or asked which city Giants Stadium is in.

A CB tossup question should have 2 or 3 pieces of information, and they should be presented in such a manner as to take the question from obscurity to clarity. (ACF tossups may have additional clues. CB tossups should be limited to three clues because long questions are incompatible with timed rounds.) For example, if a question has 3 clues then after the first clue only the exceptional player should be able to answer it, after the second a good player should be able to make an educated guess, and after the third clue only one possible answer should remain.

There are exceptions to this rule. The first is the spelling question. In these questions, the answer is to spell a word. In these, the word to be spelled *must* be one of the first 4-5 words of the question in order to be fair. Another exception is the "quickie" question. An example would be "For a quick ten points, what is the capital of Kansas." These questions reward speed and players who can adjust their tempo quickly. However, "quickie" questions should not be overused: in CB packets, there should be no more than 3, and ACF discourages the use of any quickies. [WIKI NOTE: Spelling questions and "quickie" questions are hallmarks of bad quizbowl and should never, ever be written. Ever.]

Both formats "officially" (through their most-often cited question writing guidelines) call for "giveaway clues" at the end of a tossup.


(9) What is a good way to recruit people or get a club started?

If you are interested in starting up a new CB club at your school, the first thing to do is call your student activities office. Ask if your school has ever been involved in CB, and if so which faculty or administrators were involved. Also ask how one goes about getting school funding for student activities. The next thing to do is to contact CBI, at phone number 1-800-234-BOWL (or 818-788-4103). They have a wealth of information and can walk you through the official mumbo-jumbo. The next thing to do is to find a faculty person or administrator who is willing to be your "coach" or do some behind-the-scenes work for you. Next, find a few people who are interested in CB and who are willing to put in work to promote the club and the activity at your school. If you can secure funding for 10 or more packets of questions from CBI (10 packets will cost a new program in the area of $500), order them and set up a campus tournament for your school. Be careful about this: you will need a few game officials and some equipment, and you have to be careful to avoid conflicts of interest. A typical campus tournament runs 1-2 competition rooms at the same time, and each room should have at least 2 game officials. [Note: The official CBI script calls for four officials per room, but most tourneys get by with only two officials, with no noticeable drop in quality.]

Conflicts of interest are harder to avoid. If the club runs the tournament, it is best if the director and other game officials of the tournament not participate in it. If the director or other officials do participate, you will have to sequester the questions carefully so that the director and these officials do not see the questions they will play on before their matches.

There is another way to start up a CB program, but you cannot play in your CB RCT the first year if you do it. However, you may participate fully in an ACF RCT and, if you make it, the ACF NCT. The first year, get a group of people together to form a club, and send teams to invitationals at other schools. You may or may not be able to get funding for this, depending on your school's policies. After this, apply to your school for CBI packets the next year, saying that you have a club already in place and that you are ready to take CB to your entire school. [Note: almost every CB program gets the money to buy CBI packets either from their school, an outside sponsor, or a combination of both. There have been cases where individuals purchase the questions themselves, but this an option left only to those willing and able to pay the hefty $43-62 per packet.]

To set up an ACF program, contact Vishnu Jejjala at or Jim Dendy at

To recruit players for an already existing program, the first decision you have to make is whether you want a year-round club or not. Many schools run a campus tournament, and then just send the winning team to their RCT (and if it wins the RCT, it gets sent to the NCT). Other schools, which tend to do better at the national level, maintain year-round clubs, which send teams to invitationals and practices year-round, and may even conduct more than one campus tournament.

A good way to recruit for a year-round program is to find out from your admissions department who participated in academic competition in high school, and target those individuals. However, there is a problem with this method: many potentially good players may not have had the opportunity or the inclination to play in high school, but may want to play in college.

Once you've promoted and run your campus tourney, you have another decision to make: do you want entry to the club to be competitive or not? At some schools, all participants in the campus tourney are invited to join the club, although standing on travelling teams is based on merit. Some schools do this, but target particularly the best players in the campus tourney. At other schools, the best players from the campus tourney try out for as many spots as are open in the club/travelling teams. It is up to your program to decide how to do it.


(9a) How do I run the campus tournament?

(Most of this section from Pat Matthews)
As stated before, for CB-participating schools the campus tournament should be the cornerstone of your recruitment effort, and as such it should be run well and promoted to your entire student body.

The first thing you should do is to plan out on which date(s) you will have your event. There is no strict rule as to how your event must be structured: it is entirely up to your program. Some of the many things to keep in mind in planning the campus tourney:
a. How many teams do you expect will play
b. How many rooms you will want to run at the same time
c. How many game officials will be available, and at what times
d. Will any participants also serve as officials
e. What format will you want (round-robin, single elimination, double elimination, swiss pairs, modified or hybrid forms of the above)
f. Are there any campus events that you want to avoid conflicts with
g. What kind of publicity will you generate, and will campus and/or local TV/Radio/newspapers cover you

Most of these issues are discussed in the _College Bowl Campus Program Information Guide_, available free from CBI. Sample scoresheets, tournament charts, promotional materials, a rules quiz for game officials, and other useful info are in the guide.

The second thing you must do is figure out how you are going to pay for the campus tourney. If you do it by the book, every question you use should be bought from CBI, and these packets cost $43-$62 each. Plus, you will have to pay for photocopying scoresheets and rules, posters, possibly an ad in your campus newspaper, possibly food/soda for your game officials, possibly prizes, etc. Many schools have some sort of funding mechanism for student activities, and that should be your first stop. In addition, a few programs have succeeded in getting local businesses to sponsor or co-sponsor the campus tourney.

Once you have these figured out, order the questions from CBI. It is imperative that you complete steps one and two *very* much in advance of the actual campus tourney. A good time to hold it is in October or November, so you should finish the planning stage preferably by September 1, and ideally before everyone goes home for the summer. This is for two reasons: first, advance planning makes the event easier to run; second,you will qualify for the early order discount on questions.

There are many other tasks which you must complete for your campus tourney to be a success, and they may be performed either while or after the aforementioned tasks are completed.

An extremely important task is the recruitment of game officials. They must be impartial, have a thorough knowledge of the game and its rules, and be firm in their decisions, but they must not be afraid to admit mistakes or be so rigid that they will not uphold a valid protest. If you have no experienced game officials at your disposal, there are three things that you can do. The first is to train officials yourself. Have them read the materials from game officials that CBI sends in its annual mailings to the schools, and take them through simulated matches. Make sure they know the rules *COMPLETELY*. Another option is to call neighboring schools' CB programs and see if they can send you some game officials. A third option is to call your ACUI region coordinator. They have lists of volunteers in your region who help out for the RCT, and you may be able to persuade some of these people to help you out for your campus tourney (but don't count on it). To find out who your regional coordinator is and his/her phone number, call CBI at 1-800-234-BOWL.

Another key task is to get the necessary equipment (see [[Atendido/Matthews FAQ List#(10) What equipment do I need to play CB?|question 10). You will need as many buzzer systems as rooms, and any clocks that you use should be countdown timers that are visible to the players and game officials. If your program does not already have a buzzer system, it should buy one (and depending on the size of your program, you may need a second system). Borrowing a system is possible, but very difficult, as they are not cheap (a buzzer system ordered through CBI costs ca. $500). However, you may be able to borrow the equipment of a neighboring school, and your regional coordinator may be able to loan you a system as well.

For help and advice for any aspect of intramural tournament planning, do not hesitate to ask the editor of this list (Pat Matthews,


(10) What equipment do I need to play CB?

To properly play a CB match, you will need a room that is relatively quiet and free from outside noise, a lockout buzzer system, paper and pencils, and a clock. All of the above, with the exception of the clock, are required for ACF matches.

The lockout system is essential to the game for one reason: it is the best method of determing which player (among the eight) has actually signalled first. Each player has some sort of signalling device, and in a lockout system, once a player has signalled, no one else can signal until the system has been cleared. Barring malfunction, this eliminates any arguments about "who rung in first", because once the first player "rings in," no one else can until the system has been reset.

When schools host invitationals, the host school usually offers a discount to schools bringing buzzer systems (and sometimes clocks) to the tournament.


(10a) Whom can I buy equipment from?

[WIKI NOTE: I have not checked whether any of the contact information in this section is still valid, whether the prices are roughly the same as quoted, or whether some of these companies even exist. It's probably easier to just search online for whatever equipment you need]

(After John Palmatier)
The most popular clocks for CB are made by the GraLab Instruments Division of Dimco-Gray. You can get models for as little as $59 or as much as $316. The phone is (513) 433-7600 and the fax (513) 433-0520.
(end attribution)

Gralabs are also available from resellers, such as photographic and/or lab equipment stores, and some purveyors of buzzer systems. GraLab clocks aren't strictly necessary. Pretty much any count-down timer that "buzzes" when time is up and that players can see from across a room is acceptable.


(from Joe Neff)
If you are looking to buy an inexpensive digital timer, check out the Aldrich catalog, easily found at your univerisity's chem or bio department. The timer is in the "1995 New Products" supplement, so it may take a year to get into the main monster of a catalog (2000 pages).

"Here's how to order..."
Phone 1-800-558-9160, Fax 1-800-962-9591
Or write to PO Box 2060, Milwaukee WI, 53201.
There is no minimum order, Visa and MC accepted.
OAKTON dual timer/clock, item #Z25,329-4, $20.00 + shipping.
[If you forget the Z, you'll order Item 25,329-4: 3-(2-Isothiocyanatoethylcarbamoyl)-PROXYL, 10 mg, $29.30]

The timer is made by Cole-Parmer, and is available directly from them for $20 plus shipping. There are quantity discounts: 10% off for orders of 10-24 clocks, and 20% for orders of 25+ clocks. Item #H-94440-10.

To order:<br. Cole-Parmer Instrument Co.
625 E. Bunker Ct.
Vernon Hills, IL 60061
Phone 1-800-323-4340 Fax 847-549-7676

Several companies sell buzzer systems. A few are described below. Before ordering, call the company and ask them to mail you a brochure, as several companies offer more than one model.

(After Gaius Stern)


Creative Electronic Design "Quizwizard II" Designed for High School Certamen. System is a box with 12 or 16 thumb activated buzzers held in hand at end of long chords. Only moderator can tell who rang in from display (i.e. players can not see). System can be set for individuals or teams of 4 players each. System is delicate.

Major advantage: can seat 12 or 16 people
Special features: System tells who rang in 1st, 2nd, AND 3rd.
Price: x8 players = $420 x12 players = $495 x16 players = $570
Creative Electronic Design Inc. (513) 426-1506
2565 Celia Dr.
Beaver Creek, Ohio 45434 - 6815
*******contact Gaius Stern ( before ordering, as he may be able to arrange a discount for you.


Electramatic Inc. "The Judge" Comes in a briefcase. Players hit "footpedals" to signal an answer which lights up green or red light corresponding to each buzzer. Locks out all other responses until reset.
Major advantage: Very durable and portable.
Special features: None
Price: x8 players = $350 x10 players = $375
Electramatic Inc. (612) 781-9588
1815 Jefferson St. N.E.
Minneapolis, Minn 55418


(after Gaius Stern)

Specialty Design Corp. Each player presses a thumb activated, hand held buzzer which is connected to a light sitting in front of him/her. Lights look like volunteer firefighter sirens, triggers are long thin cylinders with a thumb button on the end, and the entire system is connected with modular phone wire. I'm advised that the little tabs on the modular jack break every few years, forcing replacement of that little connector, but other than that, low maintenance.

[Note: Please note the correction to the system from Specialty Design in Alabama. In truth, this is the exact system that Patrick's Press sells. If one calls the company and says that they heard about the system from me (or the newsletter) they can get some sort of discount.

    I would not discourage callers from trying to obtain the same price as is posted in Patrick's Press (if that is lower than the ACF discount) simply by mentioning  "Well I've heard of this other system sold by PP which goes for XX less ..."


Major advantage: very portable.
Special features: None
Price: x8 players = about $489 with shipping

       x10 players =  ca. $550 ??

x12 players = maybe $610, with a possible discount

       Specialty Design Corp.
715 N. 19th Street
Bessemer, Alabamas 35020
Phone 205-428-1224 or 428-1223
Wats 1-800-284-6377

Contact for more info


Zeecraft Tech. "Challenger I, II, or III" Each player has a little box with a buzzer and a light on it. Everyone can see who rang in first. They sell several different models, so I advise calling and getting their brochures. Prices refer to "Challenger II" Models for 8 - 16 players can be ordered and they rent out for weekends, as well.
Major advantages: none (a 16 person set available)
Special features: built in clock can be ordered for extra
Price: x8 players = $445 x12 players = $545 x16 players = $635
Zeecraft Tech. 1-800-662-7475 or (717) 465-7475
Ridge Road
RR2 Box 157 -H
New Milford, PA 18834

[This is the new (Fall 1995) standard for CBI. CBI sells a modified version of the Challenger I system for $414. In addition, CBI sells a carrying case for $125. Both prices include standard shipping.]


Academic Enterprises
This system comes disrecommended to me by Univ. of Oklahoma. All I know about it is that it is a 10 person system. Eric Bell says the manufacturer may no longer be in business. If you call Information in Lexington, Kentucky, you can find out for sure. Sorry I have nothing more. (end attribution)


Patrick's Press
Makes very affordable buzzer systems. 8-player model with indicator lights on the moderator's panel is only $298. Separate indicators for each player (8 total) is $498. Models for more players are available.
Patrick's Press 1-800-654-1052
P.O. Box 5189
Columbus, GA 31906

It is possible to make one's own buzzer system, but that's beyond the editor's expertise :)


(11) Aside from buying questions from CBI, how can I get more questions to use in practice?

The first answer is: write them on your own (see [[Atendido/Matthews FAQ List#(11a) How do I write questions?|question 11a). Getting your players to write questions is a very good way to both develop playing skills and to expose the team to new knowledge, as well as generate more practice material. For example, if you have a 15-member club (14 players and one coach) and each person wrote one packet per month, that would be a total of 180 new packets for the year. If these questions are used in practice, the team may learn many things they did not know before. Also, writing questions and using them in practice is an excellent way to keep the club up-to-date with current events and other happenings. In addition, becoming a good question writer can be helpful to playing skills. While playing, a good question writer often has a better sense of where a question is leading, and thus may be better able to anticipate the answer.

The second answer: trade with other schools. Many schools maintain question libraries, and are willing to trade, sell, and sometimes give away questions. Be careful, however: questions from CBI may not be transferred or duplicated without company permission! Also, be careful about question sales in general: the host school of a tournament is held to be the owner of all questions submitted for that tournament, and they have final say on how those questions are distributed.

The third answer: download them from the CB/ACF web site. Here's how:

[original by Peter Freeman, additions by Paul Harm, changes by George]

An site is now available for the deposit and withdrawal of old CB/ACF tournament sets. I have set up this site so that schools may utilize the network to get question sets for their practices. Please do not utilize this resource as a last-minute measure to create question sets for tournaments; if I hear any complaints about questions being re-used or mis-used, I will pull the plug immediately.

This site will start with a limited selection; the idea is for those of you who have held tournaments and who have old sets on a mainframe or on disk to contribute them. Some schools charge for their sets, though; in anticipation of this, I have worked out an agreement with BU and Penn to hold any sets for at least one year (e.g., the site has the 1992 Terrier Tussle, but not the 1993). I would like to make that a general rule, if others are willing, i.e. if you charge for your sets, do not send anything less than a year old.

The archive is currently at the web site:


This supercedes all other addresses for the archive.

If there are any problems or comments, or if you would like information on how to submit old sets, please send e-mail to:

[WIKI NOTE: That old archive is no longer extant. Its spiritual descendent lives on as the Stanford Packet Archive at]


(11a) How do I write questions?

Like anything else, the art of question writing is acquired only by practicing. Most writers have trouble writing good questions on the first attempt. However, in time, the process becomes easier and more natural.

The best way to start writing CB questions is to read the writing guidelines written by the Stanford College Bowl Club. They are the most comprehensive guidelines to date on the subject. For ACF question writers, Marc Swisdak, formerly of the Maryland Academic Team, has compiled an ACF question writing manual. Both manuals are available via FTP, and are reposted to a.c.c-b regularly. [WIKI NOTE: The current generally accepted question writing guidelines were put forth by Jerry Vinokurov and minorly tweaked by a few other people, and can be found on the ACF website]

Then, try writing a few questions.

After writing questions, it's an excellent idea to try them on other people in your club. This is essential, because it's the best way to get immediate feedback, and find out what changes should be made.

From Pat Matthews:
"A common complaint of question writers is that they have no "inspiration"--they have no idea what to write about. My personal method when I've lost inspiration is first to attack the Sunday edition of the New York _Times_ for questions, then to go to the encyclopedias. I'll pull out 7-8 volumes at a time and open to random pages, looking for good stuff to write questions about."

"Another thing I do is that I tend to stockpile questions and then take questions out of my pile to make packets. That way, if I happen to be using a good source for a particular category, I'll just write down the questions and use them later. For example, if I were reading a book on the Civil War, I'd write down as many Civil War related questions as I could while reading the book. Then, later on, I'd use these questions in other packets."

"A method used by one of my former Penn colleagues was to carry a small assignment pad in his backpack. Then, if he ever heard or read something that was question-worthy, he'd jot it down on the pad. He now writes for CBI."
[Ed. note: while it's true that this friend wrote freelance for CBI when I wrote the above, he no longer does.]

Here's a tip from Tom Michael: "Here is a tip on writing good quality questions on a variety of subjects quickly. This method requires two "sources" (books, magazines, specialty publications, encyclopedias, general texts, etc.), one of which should be a general reference work; and a ten sided die. Dice in a variety of shapes, including non-platonic solids, are available at hobby, wargame, and bookstores that sell Dungeons & Dragons or other fantasy games. Using the die, roll a page number for one of your sources. Find something on that page suitable for a question. Cross-reference the subject in your general reference work, and write a question using information from both sources. Using information from two sources allows you to expand the scope of the question beyond the first reference, and provides a check on the accuracy of the information. After you have written several questions in this manner, sort the questions by subject area. Now "balance" the packet by writing questions on subject areas you are missing."

"This method helps if you are running out of inspiration for questions, or simply don't have a lot of time. (Note: I hand out one die to each player at the second practice every year. Some have found it helps to write questions; others don't use it.)"


(12) Who gets to go to the regionals?

(Pat Matthews)
For CB, every school that bought at least ten CBI packets in the given year is eligible to play in its RCT. An additional entry fee is usually required to cover the RCT's operating costs. Each school may send one team. The team is selected from the Varsity Squad, composed of eight or more players who all played in at least one game of each school's IM. The RCT team consists of four players and one "alternate". (The term "alternate" is misleading, as teams may substitute freely between rounds.)

Members of the winning IM team automatically become part of the Varsity Squad, but the Varsity Squad can consist of as many "All-Stars" selected from other teams as each program deems desirable. Thus, it is entirely legal for the RCT team to have no members of the winning IM team. (Indeed, the rule does not define "All-Star", so the "Varsity Squad" could conceivably consist of every player in the IM.) Members of the RCT team must be taking the equivalent of three credit hours per term. (A lower second-term load is OK if the registrar certifies that the student's course load satisfies degree requirements.) Also, only one member of the RCT team may be a graduate student.

The mode of team selection varies from school to school. Modes include, but are not limited to:
1. some form or tryout/showdown
2. vote of the program members and/or officers
3. appointment by coach/other official
4. sending the winning IM team
5. some hybrid of the above

For ACF, there are fewer restrictions. No IM is mandated, and a school can enter more than one team. In addition, there are no packets to buy, so all a school has to do to enter a team(s) is pay the entry fee(s) and perhaps send a packet(s), if packet submission is required. In addition, there are no restrictions on graduate students, and a player need only have taken a course at the school in the last year. Programs select their ACF RCT teams with the same modes, although "sending the winning IM team" will not apply to all schools.


(12a) What are the regions for College Bowl competition?

Region 1: ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI, Canadian Maritimes
Region 2: NY except for NYC and Long Island, Quebec, Ontario in EST
Region 3: NYC and Long Island, NJ, DE, and southeast PA
Region 4: the rest of PA, MD, WV, DC, northern VA
Region 5: the rest of VA, NC, SC, TN, KY
Region 6: GA, MS, AL, FL
Region 7: OH, lower MI
Region 8: Chicago, WI, and upper MI
Region 9: IL (except Chicago), IN
Region 10: IA, MN, ND, SD, Manitoba, Ontario in CST
Region 11: KS, MO, NE, OK
Region 12: TX, LA, AR
Region 13: AR, UT, WY, NM, CO
Region 14: ID, MT, WA, OR, AK, the rest of Canada
Region 15: CA, NV, HI, Guam
*Region 16: Australia, New Zealand, Far East

*Region 16 has never sent a team to the NCT since the Campus Program began.

Note: ACF has "regionals", but they are not based on formal geographic breakdowns, but rather on what schools are willing to host them and relative proximity between these schools.


(12b) Who are the defending CBI regional champions?

(after David Tuttle)

Straight from John Palmatier's voice, here is the list of 1996 Regional Tournament winners:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Region 1 Champion
Cornell University Region 2 Champion
Princeton University Region 3 Champion
Johns Hopkins University Region 4 Champion
University of Virginia Region 5 Champion
University of Florida Region 6 Champion
Western Michigan University Region 7 Champion
University of Chicago Region 8 Champion
Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Region 9 Champion
University of Minnesota Region 10 Champion
University of Oklahoma Region 11 Champion
University of Houston Region 12 Champion
University of Utah Region 13 Champion
Portland Community College Region 14 Champion
Stanford University Region 15 Champion


(13) What schools have won the National Championship?

For CB, since the beginning of the campus program.
For ACF, from 1991 (first ACF NCT).

1978 Stanford University
1979 Davidson College
1980 California State - Fresno
1981 University of Maryland
1982 U. of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
1983 not held
1984 University of Minnesota
1985 not held
1986 U. of Wisconsin - Madison
1987 University of Minnesota
1988 North Carolina State University
1989 University of Minnesota
1990 University of Chicago
1991 Rice University University of Tennessee
1992 Massachusetts Inst. of Tech. not held
1993 University of Virginia University of Chicago
1994 University of Chicago University of Chicago
1995 Harvard University Harvard University
1996 University of Michigan Georgia Institute of Technology

HCASC Champions:

Year School
1990 West Virginia State University
1991 Florida A & M University
1992 Norfolk State University
1993 Tuskegee University
1994 Tuskegee University
1995 Jackson State University
1996 ?? - tournament was held, winner not known to ed. at this time

[WIKI NOTE: All of the above national champions have their own pages on the wiki. I decided not to go through the trouble of hyperlinking them.]


(13a) How does a school get to Nationals?

For CB, it's simple. The 15 region winners go. In addition, one randomly selected second place team goes as the wild card, making a 16-team field. In the event that a region winner cannot attend, the region's #2 team goes in its place, and so on.

For ACF it's slightly more complicated. ACF has a few regional tournaments, at which the top few finishers at each qualify for nationals. In addition, the hosts of each regional tournament and some ACF-registered invitationals receive automatic bids. Also, teams can receive automatic bids for good performances at invitationals. Finally, if there are any slots available, the ACF committee will accept appeals for consideration.

For HCASC, see the description in question 2a.


(14) What schools normally host invitationals, and when are they?

There are many schools that host invitationals, in addition to CBI and ACF regionals and nationals. Mike Starsinic compiles a list of tournaments that is posted regularly to If you want a copy emailed to you, write Mike at

[WIKI NOTE: This is no longer relevant. For the most up-to-date information on tournaments, visit the [ hsquizbowl forums]]


(14a) How does my school go about running its own invitational?

That's a subject worthy of its own FAQ! Running an invitational tournament is the main source of revenues for many clubs. Indeed, a fair number of schools on the invitational circuit would be unable to afford to travel if not for the money raised by their own tourneys. However, running an invitational, whether it's a high school event or an intercollegiate competition, isn't easy.

For a *brief* overview of what is involved in running an invitational, check out the document first-time-tourney-command from the web site (as of this writing, it is not known which directory it is stored in). This document is a combination of articles on the subject posted by Pat Matthews and Doug O'Neal.

[Ed. note: if anyone is interested in helping to compile a "Tourney Direction FAQ", please contact Mike Haynes of Bowling Green at]

[WIKI NOTE: Since 1996 a few people have tried to write a tournament direction guide; the only one I am currently aware of is Paul and Juliana's Guide to Directing Tournaments]


(14b) What's all this flap about registering tournaments and license fees?

CBI holds copyrights and/or trademarks on many items, such as the name "College Bowl", their official rules and scoresheets, their questions, and certain phrases like "Varsity Sport of the Mind." To use any of these, or any other bits of CBI's intellectual property in connection with an invitational tournament, you must negotiate a license contract with CBI beforehand. The typical fee is $10/team participating in a tourney that charges an entry fee, and $5/team participating at a tourney that doesn't charge an entry fee.

ACF does not charge schools a fee to use its rules or format, and has claimed that tourneys that use none of CBI's intellectual property are not subject to any license fees. A position paper on the subject (written by Jim Dendy, Vishnu Jejjala, and Ramesh Kannappan, with feedback from Tom Michael) is available on the FTP site. It's called ACF_position_license_fees. [WIKI NOTE: Yeah, you guessed it, the FTP site no longer exists.]


(15) Are there any books available on College Bowl/ACF?

There are countless question-and-answer books out there, but they don't really count :)

(After Gary Greenbaum and Craig Leff)
In terms of books about _the game_, the editor knows of only one, _The College Bowl Quiz Book_, compiled by Carol Nash, published 1971 by Doubleday & Co. No ISBN number available, but Library of Congress catalog number is 70-139009. The book is mostly questions and asnwers, broken by category. The book also records the score of every televised match. Unfortunately, the book has been out of print for some time now, but you be able to find it in a secon-hand bookstore.
(End attribution)

(after Craig Leff)
There is a similar book available for CB's British counterpart: _The University Challenge Quiz Book_ (with forward by Don Reid). [Ed.: For info on University Challenge, see Question 7.] It contains 14 games of questions, with each game composed of 20 starters (TUs) and boni. The boni are all worth 15 pts, with 3 questions for 5 pts. each. Also, the boni are all in one category, which range from children's TV to British politics to Fridges (3 boni about refrigerators and refrigeration) to Bears to Sports to Languages, etc. One interesting note: each game includes 5 extra starters "in the event that neither of the teams is able to answer a given starter".

There are a few Brit politics questions, and some about cricket starters that Americans may find impossible, but overall I was impressed with the content of the questions and think they would travel well to this side of the Atlantic.

I would peg the questions as harder than CBI, but not consistently at the level of ACF. The questions are of CBI length vs. ACF length. Note that even "un-ACF" categories like sports are more likely to ask "Theoretically, what is the minimum number of strokes a player can make to win a set of lawn tennis?" rather than "idenfity this tennis star" or "who won more than 3 consecutive Wimbledons in the modern era?"

The cover shows two teams on the TV set, which is quite beautiful, with symbols etched on a blue-green background. The symbols range from large capital letters from an illuminated manuscript to yin/yang to a Greek column to something that may be a part of a Cubist painting.

And now the facts: The University Challege Quiz Book, 1995, BBC Books, ISBN 0-563-37194-3. Cost printed on the back cover is 5 pounds. Questions are copyrighted Granada Television Ltd. Game format copyrighted to CBI.
[end attribution]


(15a) Is there a College Bowl historian/history available on the net?

CBI has kept records dating from the game show days, but their files aren't accessible from the net. Now that company officials have obtained Internet access, more information *may* become publicly available. (Speculation from the editor.) [WIKI NOTE: Extensive records about schools' participation in CBI can be found at]

Shawn Askew of Georgia Tech has embarked on a project to chronicle ACF Nationals participants, both the teams and the players. If you can be of any assistance to him, mail Shawn at

For now, limited information can be gleaned from the FTP site and this FAQ. The FAQ contains a list of past CB, HCASC, and ACF champions, as well as a sketch of the origins of CB. The FTP site also has past invitationals summaries and Top 20/25 lists. In addition, Shawn has placed an ACF history file (ACF_94.txt) on the FTP site.

It is hoped that more historical material can be compiled and made available via FTP in the near future. [WIKI NOTE: That's what the wiki is for, right? Oh, yeah, like you need to be reminded the FTP doesn't exist]


(16) How are players ranked?

(Pat Matthews)
Like any sport, academic competition has a few statistics which are useful in measuring player performance. The most common stat is Points Per Game (PPG). The formula for PPG is fairly simple:

       (10 * # of tossups answered) - (5 * # of incorrect interrupts)

PPG = --------------------------------------------------------------

                               # of games played

This formula can be applied to individuals or teams. PPG is often used to determine tournament all-stars, but it is very vulnerable to the "shadow effect," which will be explained further below.

PPG is sometimes rewritten as "adjusted average." The only difference between PPG and adjusted average is that adjusted average uses 1 and -0.5 instead of 10 and -5 as the weighting factors for tossups and interrupts.

Other commonly used stats on both the team and individual level are Interrupt Ratio or Interrupt Percentage. Interrupt Ratio is defined as the ratio of incorrect interrupts to tossups answered correctly. Interrupt Percentage is usually defined as interrupts divided by the quantity interrupts plus tossups, but sometimes as interrupts divided by total chances (interrupts plus tossups plus "zeroes", or incorrect non-interrupts).

A useful team statistic is Bonus Conversion. It is simply bonus points earned divided by bonus points possible, and is the best measure available for team play on boni.

Other, less widely-used stats also exist to evaluate performance. Most of these alternative stats attempt to counter the "shadow effect." Simply stated, the "shadow effect" is the effect on individual stats of having very strong or very weak teammates. The idea is that having good teammates decreases a player's opportunity to answer tossups, and that having weak teammates increases said opportunities. Thus, Player A from Team A could have a significantly lower PPG than Player B from Team B, yet still be a much better player than B because A has better teammates.

One such measure designed to counteract the "shadow effect" is the Points Created (PC) stat developed by Pat Matthews and Clay Davenport. PC attempts to normalize player scores so that the effects of teammates on scoring is minimized, and players are ranked according to how many points they "produce" above or below the average player.

A full explanation of the PC method is available on RTF format from the FTP site (pc_explained_rtf). In addition, a barebones, formulae-only text version is avilable via FTP (pc_formulae_text). The reader is warned, however, that only the rft version is "canonical", and the text version may have an error or two in the formulae.


(16a) How are statistics kept?

It depends on the host. Every tournament uses scoresheets to track each match, and most tournaments publish the player statistics at some point during and/or after play.

Stats are sometimes tabulated by hand, but are increasingly being computerized. Many people have created spreadsheets and database applications to track player stats and automate computation. The best freely available CB/ACF stats application is StatKeeper, developed by the folks at Auburn University. StatKeeper has some minor limitations but few bugs, and has many nifty features. StatKeeper runs on the Macintosh.

To obtain a copy of StatKeeper, you have two options. A copy of StatKeeper has been placed in binhex form on the FTP site, and you can download it from there, or you can get a copy through snail-mail. To do this, email Pat Matthews at Typically, you will have to mail Pat Matthews a 3.5" disk and return postage, and he will mail you back the program. [WIKI NOTE: Times have changed. The best stats program out there is SQBS, created by Chris Sewell. It runs on Windows. You can download it from this website. It really is awesome.]


(16b) What are "VVB's"?

(after Matt Colvin)
"VVB" is an abbreviation for variable value bonuses. In other words, if a tournament uses bonuses with mixed values, the tourney uses VVB, whereas if the tourney uses fixed bonus values for each packet the tourney does not use VVB. VVB is an issue because several posters have questioned the fairness of rewarding teams that answer tossups with randomly-determined bonus point opportunities. Opponents of VVB feel that the only fair thing to do is equalize bonus values, so that bonus opportunities depend on how many tossups a team answer, not also on *when* the team answers.

At least as many people have posted to say that VVB are not inherently unfair. In the end, it comes down to a question of how much randomness is acceptable in a game. Also, related to the debate are questions of how difficult lower-value bonuses should be relative to higher-value bonuses. For example, if the bonus conversion rate on 20-point bonuses is very high relative to 25- and/or 30-point bonuses, teams may not necessarily be at a disadvantage by getting a disproportionate number of 20-point opportunities. [WIKI NOTE: The generally accepted opinion of everyone that isn't CBI is that VVBs are bad quizbowl.]


(16c) What are "CUR's"?

(after Matt Colvin)
CUR is the colorful acronym for "Colvin Unfair Result". The term was coined by Gary Greenbaum of the GWU as a name for a situation posited in debate by Vishnu Jejjala and Matt Colvin of Maryland. The name has stuck.

Matt Colvin originally defined a CUR as a game in which:

1. Team A scores as many or more tossup points (tossups times 10 minus interrupts times five) than Team B.
2. Team A converts a higher percentage of its available bonus points than Team B.
3. Team A loses the match.

(At first, it was believed that a CUR could only occur in matches using VVB's. However, it has been demonstrated by Colin Russell that the above definition can produce a CUR even if bonus values are held constant. Colin and Matt have both submitted alternate definitions.)

Opponents of VVB's consider such a result unfair because they feel each tossup should carry the same point opportunities, and should not be affected by randomness in bonus value distributions. On the other side, it's argued that the result is not "unfair" because a loss cannot be solely attributed to any one factor.

Although many, including the editor, scoffed at first that a CUR was a philosophical construct that could never happen in reality, in the 1995 CB NCT there were two documented CUR's by the above definition.


(17) What are the policies for FAQ submission?

(Pat Matthews, revised by George Atendido)
The editor of this list relies on the readers of to bring up new material, update old material, and suggest other improvements for the file.

Unless an actual attribution is attached to information in this file, the reader may assume that either the section in question is not clearly attributable to a single source or that the author of that section does not wish to be identified.

If you have new material you would like added to this FAQ, send it to George Atendido at Unless such material is CLEARLY MARKED as potential FAQ fodder, the editor will not consider it as such. Also, if portions of your post are *not* meant for inclusion in the FAQ, CLEARLY DELINEATE what is FAQ material, and what is for the editor's eyes only. Finally, if you do not wish to be attributed when offering FAQ material, you must clearly so say in the submission.

Also, be advised that any submission sent may be edited by the editor (as the title suggests). If you wish to see a proof copy of a submission before it actually goes into the FAQ, you must clearly state that in the same message containing the contribution. Otherwise, the editor will assume that the contributor trusts the editor's judgement as the final word on the contribution.

Finally, as a reader of, the editor reserves the right to make additions/changes to this FAQ based on posts made to the newsgroup. In such a case, *no* attribution will be made for the new/updated information.