Illinois Scholastic Bowl

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Scholastic Bowl in Illinois is played by over 500 high schools and 300 middle schools. It traditionally has been governed by the Illinois High School Association (IHSA), and from roughly 1986-2006 most of its tournaments were played under IHSA Rules. The history of quizbowl in Illinois is very confusing, since it includes many mistakes at the same time as genuine progress.


Little Quizbowl on the Prairie (1960s-1985)

Quizbowl in Illinois can be traced back at least as far back as the 1960s, and was originally more popular in Downstate Illinois than in the Chicago area. One of the first tournaments in the state to gain notability was the Senior Challenge held in Streator, which was open only to high school seniors. Questions were written by locals, and lockout systems were homemade. Local businesses sponsored the tournament, which was organized by the local Rotary Club.

Certainly, there were other tournaments, with each tournament having a unique twist to their format. This became the key thread running through Illinois quizbowl throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s: there was no universal set of rules.

IHSA Consensus Years (1986-2007)

By 1985, the popularity of the activity was notable enough for numerous coaches and school administrators to petition the IHSA for formal recognition as a competitive activity. With recognition came a codification of the rules, and the recognition of a state champion. All teams competed in one class until 1991, and were placed into 16 geographic sectional tournaments. The 16 winners of those tournaments advanced to a single elimination tournament.

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, IHSA Scholastic Bowl grew tremendously, with new teams, conferences, and tournaments forming every year. From the mid 1980s through the early 2000s, though there was some disagreement as to whether or not tossups should be pyramidal, there generally was agreement that matches should follow IHSA format and that tournaments should use morning pools with single-elimination afternoons, though occasionally tournaments did experiment with other formats.

The Schism Years (2007-2017)

As some of Illinois' better teams became more exposed to "good quizbowl" through and tournaments hosted by the University of Illinois, NAQT, and PACE, they became vocal proponents for change. The changes sought included improved question quality, bonus parts being read one at a time, increases in the number of matches guaranteed to teams entering tournaments, the elimination of single-elimination tournament formats, and the reduction or elimination of computation, grammar, and most miscellaneous topics. While IHSSBCA generally supported these changes, many coaches, including a majority on the IHSA Advisory Committee generally did not, leading several top teams to put a higher value on national tournaments and invitationals than Illinois' state tournaments (though the teams that did not value the State Tournaments were dominant at them because they learned more by playing tournaments in other formats). During this time, several Illinois invitationals became a mirror of tournaments from out of state, starting with Auburn's mirror of HFT. By 2010, a majority of invitationals in Illinois did not use IHSA format, with mACF becoming more popular. By about 2014, almost all Illinois tournaments followed the major elements of "good quizbowl". Some people believed that this schism pitted the Chicago suburbs against downstate, though in reality opinions varied throughout the state. For its 2013 tournament, IHSA switched to reading one bonus part at a time.

The End of History (2017-)

In 2017, the IHSA engaged Brad Fischer as their new head editor, which all but assured a permanent transition to pyramidal questions and an acceptable distribution. By this point, very many high school matches in Illinois used high quality pyramidal questions and reasonable rules, and tournaments used formats appropriate for their size.

Notable annual tournaments

A complete list of tournaments in Illinois can be found on the IHSSBCA's site. Notable recurring tournaments include the following:

  • Earlybird - October - Formerly a housewrite by UIUC and now using questions from different sources each year, this tournament is usually the first tournament of the season.
  • IHSSBCA Novice - October - hosted in several locations across the state, this tournament allows students who did not achieve certain levels of success to compete against each other. It uses the SCOP set.
  • Northwestern Wake-Up Call - October - another tournament for novice students
  • IHSSBCA Kickoff - mid-November - hosted in several locations across the state, this tournament used to mark the "start" of the season, but several tournaments have arisen prior to its usual date. Combined across sites, it has the largest turnout of any tournament except for the IHSA and Masonic series.
  • Scobol Solo - November - hosted by New Trier, it is a solo contest attracting over 100 top players each year.
  • HFT Mirror at Auburn - early December, the oldest annual mirror in Illinois
  • PORTA Frosh/Soph - discontinued tournament near Springfield that uses an NAQT A Set and splits teams into Class A and Class AA levels
  • Kaneland Frosh/Soph and Kaneland Varsity - tournaments west of Chicago that draw fairly large fields
  • Loyburn - tournament that alternated between Auburn and Loyola Academy each year
  • New Trier Varsity - last Saturday before Winter Break - Started in 2005 by Carlo Angiuli and Nick Matchen, this was a housewrite but is now a mirror
  • Ultima at Loyola Academy - formerly held in October and then moved to January, which used to use the format of the Panasonic Academic Challenge before switching to mACF format
  • Fremd Tournament - attracts very large field for Varsity and Frosh/Soph divisions, started as two separate tournaments during the 1990s
  • Knights' Challenge at Auburn - former housewrite with Frosh/Soph and middle school divisions
  • Springfield Tournament - January tournament with varsity and JV divisions that uses NAQT
  • Huskie Bowl - Hosted by Northern Illinois
  • Masonic tournament - mid-February - many sectionals are held across the state, followed two weeks later by the state finals. This used to be in IHSA format, but now uses a format unique to itself featuring bonuses that are not bonuses.
  • NAQT State - late February - moved from Fenton to Bloomington in 2013 and then to Champaign
  • IHSA - early to mid March. Single-elimination regionals are held at 32 sites per class across the state, with the winners advancing to round-robin sectionals at 8 sites per class, the winners of which go on to State.
  • ATROPHY - tournament hosted by Northern Illinois in April

Many people traditionally considered the IHSA State Series to crown the state champion, though the tournament's use of geographic sectionals with one team advancing, random pools at State, and a single-elimination final makes it more reasonable to consider the IHSA Champion to be a state champion rather than the state champion. The Masonic tournament, while older than the IHSA Tournament (starting in 1983), has been regarded as a lesser championship due to the smaller pool of teams playing (about 300 teams, compared to about 500 in the IHSA tournaments). Masonics also uses a match format of 6 tossups, 8 alternating team questions, 6 tossups, 8 alternating team questions, and 4 tossups, which is not used by any other tournament in the world. (The team questions are structured like bonus questions usually are structured, with the exception that control of them is not earned.) NAQT State draws fewer teams than several invitationals. When you put it all together, nobody knows who the Illinois State Champion is.

Famous/Infamous collegiate players

Notable former players who are famous for something else

External Links

  • IHSSBCA Web Site[4]
  • IHSA Scholastic Bowl page[5]
  • IHSA Scholastic Bowl Champions and Tournament Results [6]
  • For an example of why people make fun of Illinois Scholastic Bowl, try [7]