Ohio Academic Competition

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The Ohio Academic Competition (OAC) is the format that is used in most Ohio High School quizbowl tournaments. It is the most common format in the state, second to NAQT and television-show formats. Every year, the OAC Committee hosts two tournaments at the end of the season, the Regional Tournaments that are hosted at 6 sites across the state and the State Championship Tournament. The format is most beloved for its permission of conferral before, during, and after the question, as well as directed team questions with an Alphabet Round (worksheet) as the middle portion of the match.


Like most formats, two teams compete in a match. The rules state that the sides are chosen by a coin flip, although more recently moderators simply used the side the team picks to be "Team A" and "Team B". Therefore, the team that sits to the moderator's left will generally be "Team A" and the team on the moderator's right will be "Team B". If both teams have a particular preference as to whether they are Team 'A' or Team 'B', it is common practice for the decision to be determined via coin flip with the team who has traveled the greater distance to the match site being assigned to call 'heads' or 'tails' in the air.

While some tournaments may slightly deviate from the official rules, there are generally three parts to an OAC match. They are the category round, the alphabet round, and the lightning round. Teams are permitted to substitute between rounds.

Category Round

In this round, teams are asked questions in ten categories. They are (in order) American Literature, Mathematics, World History, Fine Arts, Life Science, English/World Literature, U.S. Government/Economics, Physical Science, World Geography, and U.S. History.

In each category, the two teams will each receive their own team question. In American Literature, Team A is the first team to receive their question. They will have two opportunities to answer their question within ten seconds. Teams do not need to buzz for this part. If their first response is correct, the team will earn two (2) points. If their second response is correct, they will earn one (1) points If, however, neither of their responses is correct or their ten seconds run out, the opposing team will get an opportunity to "steal" the question for one (1) point. The same process is then reversed, with Team B receiving the first two opportunities to answer the question. If the team that is directed to answer the original team question answers incorrectly twice before the ten seconds, runs out the opposing team is awarded the balance of the time remaining (on the timer's countdown to 0 seconds) to answer. After both sides are complete, a pyramidal toss-up question is read to both teams, and teams only get one opportunity each to answer. A correct answer is worth two (2) points.

In the next category (Mathematics), the order the teams hear the questions are reversed. Team B will get the first math question, and then Team A will get the second question. The third is still a tossup for both teams. This process is repeated throughout all ten categories.

Alphabet Round

After the category round is complete, teams (after substitution) will receive two printed copies of the question sheet, and one "official" answer sheet (aka a blank sheet of paper) to write down their answers to the questions. Both teams receive the exact same set of questions, and all of the answers will begin with the same letter. Usually the letter will either be announced or printed at the top of the question sheet. Teams are to keep the question sheets face down, but are allowed to distribute the copies (face-down) until directed to flip the sheets over and begin the round. Teams will have four minutes to answer all questions, with each answer being worth two (2) points.

Final Round

The third and final part of the match is called the Final Round. In the final round, twenty questions are read to both teams and each correct answer is worth two points each. The questions in the final round are pyramidal and resemble a house-written tossup/bonus set in quality and length. The questions come from the categories listed above, as well as Mythology, Religion, Philosophy, and Social Science. Some local formats also include an additional 10 tossup theme round at the end of these 20. Unlike the regionals-states set, as well as well-reputed regular season Saturday events that are OAC formatted, these productions are generally non-pyramidal and do not follow a distribution. These lesser-utilized suppliers, unusual quirks within the formatting and rules have widely been eschewed when the OAC began promoting and pursuing "good quizbowl" practices in the early 2010's.

OAC Committee

As of June 2024, the OAC Committee has fifteen voting members. There can be up to twenty voting members on the Committee at a given time. As constituted, the breakdown of Committee spots is as follows: two fixed spots for each of the six regions, At-Large spots (the number of which must equal the number of sponsored regions, but it is not required that each region have representation in the At-Large ranks), a College Representative and a representative for the Middle School programs.

Prospective Committee members must apply to the OAC, from which their applications are fielded and nominations occur within Executive Session. If a nominee is approved, and accepts their invitation to join the Committee, their membership is guaranteed for life provided that they regularly participate with the functions of the Committee. The Committee has the power to change any of the rules to the OAC format, and it also is responsible for the approval and replacement of each registered school into sites for the Regional Tournaments. The members are:

Member Name Affiliation Region
Bing Bingham None Executive Director
Bob Kilner Eastlake North High School North Coast
Peter Bergman Solon High School North Coast
Joshua Eck Copley High School Northeast
Vacant Vacant Northeast
Vacant Vacant Northwest
Vacant Vacant Northwest
Lynn Stevenson Fisher Catholic High School Southeast
Mike Sedlack Fisher Catholic High School Southeast
Brian Meeron Walnut Hills High School Southwest
Ron Maupin Little Miami High School Southwest
Tommy Segi Springboro High School West Central
Vacant Vacant West Central
Simon Zimmerman The Ohio State University College Representative
Tyler Benedict Miami Valley School Middle School Representative
Sue Korosa Copley High School At-Large
Missy Hardy Indian Hill High School At-Large
Joshua Queen Chillicothe High School At-Large
Thomas Moore unaffiliated At-Large
David Jones Northmont High School At-Large
Vacant Vacant At-Large

Regional Tournaments

Currently, tournaments are held at six different regions throughout the state. This was an expansion from the early 2000s when there were only four regions. In May 2015, discussions emerged as to potential expansion of the regional tournament to two additional regions, for a total of eight. However, this did not materialize and, as of 2024, it is unlikely that regional expansion will be seriously considered at any time in the near future due to more pressing concerns relevant to the health and functioning of already existing regions.

When teams arrive, they will take a Seeding Quiz that consists of 50 questions on paper. The questions get harder as the numbers increase, and the teams will be seeded based on the highest number of correct answers. The tiebreaker is the highest number question that is correctly answered.

Each regional tournament, if the statewide sum of registered teams is 96 schools or less, holds a maximum of 16 teams. If, in years where the sum of qualified teams statewide is greater than 96, regions may accommodate more than 16 teams. These teams will all face-off in a double-elimination tournament, where the first and second place teams will be sent to the State Tournament in Columbus. To qualify for a regional tournament, a team must win a tournament (or a division of a tournament) with at minimum six schools competing or qualify within the top 15% of either a tournament field writ large, or a constituent bracket of the tournament. The qualified team must be specifically identified by the competition organizer. Note that Ohio teams that win tournaments in other states can now automatically qualify for the OAC Regional tournament given that they meet the qualification requirements, such as winning a bracket comprising of six different schools.

State Tournament

The State Championship Tournament is generally held in Columbus, Ohio or at a suburban school adjacent. A team is eligible for the State Tournament if the finish in the first or second place at their respective regional site, or if they earn one of the at large bids. Starting in 2018, teams are seeded based on their statistics from regionals. Each team is ranked based on are their alphabet round average plus their average team category points multiplied by two. Those stats are also what is used to determine who gets the 4 wild card bids. Sixteen teams compete in each years state championship tournament.

The format of the tournament itself is a double elimination bracket. For teams that lose their second game in the same round, there is pool play to determine precise placement.

Past Champions

Year Champion Region Runner-Up Region
2023 Solon NC Northmont WC
2022 Solon NC Beavercreek WC
2021 Beavercreek WC Solon NC
2019 Beavercreek WC Miami Valley WC
2018 Beavercreek WC Miami Valley WC
2017 Beavercreek WC Fisher Catholic SE
2016 Solon NC Sidney WC
2015 Northmont WC Sidney WC
2014 Northmont WC Fisher Catholic SE
2013 Northmont WC Solon NC
2012 Olmsted Falls NC Northmont WC
2011 Copley NE Northmont WC
2010 Solon NE Copley NE
2009 Green NE Walnut Hills SW
2008 Garfield Heights NE Solon NE
2007 Garfield Heights NE Fisher Catholic SE
2006 Fisher Catholic SE Walnut Hills SW
2005 Copley NE Tippecanoe WC
2004 Fisher Catholic SE Moeller SW
2003 St. Charles SE Moeller SW
2002 Copley NE North Olmsted NE
2001 Beavercreek SW St. Xavier SW
2000 Beavercreek SW St. Charles SE
1999 Copley NE Garfield Heights NE
1998 Copley NE St. Xavier SW
1997 St. Xavier SW Garfield Heights NE
1996 Brecksville-Broadview Heights NE St. Xavier SW
1995 Copley NE Archbishop Hoban NE
1994 Beavercreek SW Norwalk NW
1993 Elyria NW Copley NE
1992 Beachwood NW Copley NE
1991 Wellington Academy SE Defiance NW
1990 Beavercreek SW Garfield Heights NE
1989 Gilmour Academy NE Howland NE
1988 Gilmour Academy NE Columbus Alternative SE
1987 Norwalk NW Lancaster SE
1986 Wheelersburg SE Wapakoneta NW
1985 Wheelersburg SE Columbus Alternative SE

Historical Criticisms

  • In the 2008 Regional Tournaments, many sites had different drawings of what the Double-Elimination brackets could look like, causing some teams to play different schedules than if they had been assigned to another region. One region in particular (EC) had confusing brackets that some teams had troubles understanding.
  • The random-draw method previously used to assign teams at the regional and state tournaments was considered controversial. Prior to it's removal, at states the six regional champions draw red 1,2 or 3 or blue 1,2 or 3. The regional runners-up from the same region are then place in the opposite brackets. While this may seem fair, the fact that OAC format does not usually single out the best teams causes a draw as in 2007, where Fisher Catholic (NAQT-2nd), Tippecanoe (NAQT-1st), Copley (NAQT-3rd) and North Canton Hoover were all placed in the same half of the bracket, while Walnut Hills (generally considered the strongest NAQT team in Ohio) and Garfield Heights were in the other bracket.

Recent Criticisms

Merits of Regionals Used to Determine Final State Field

It is argued by some in the Ohio quizbowl community that the two stage regionals-state model of the OAC tournament is not conducive to ensuring the "top n" of teams in the state is represented. A historical basis of this argument harkens to the 2000's and the 2010's, and calls into dispute whether the 12 teams in the state tournament were "truly" the 12 best teams in the state. The argument that the status quo did not ensure the "best" teams make it to state is premised that some regions have generally deeper and higher-caliber fields than other regions, and that, because each region is only guaranteed two bids to State, there were State Tournament-quality teams who were eliminated in their region that conceivably could otherwise qualify as a champion or runner-up in another region.

Similarly, there has been speculation historically that some schools over the years would, in an act of gamesmanship, intentionally not submit a registration application for Regionals as an Automatic Qualifier and instead apply as a Wild Card with a willingness to attend any region in the belief that their regional path to state could be potentially less-competitive. This potential for exploit existed due to a kernel within the OAC Constitution that specifically pairs Automatic Qualifiers as first priority to the regional site that they are closest in proximity to, while Wild Card admissions into the regional stage of the tournament would be placed into any regional 'only' if there were open spots within that regional's field. Despite the fact this "gaming of the system" is most-widely understood to be apocrypha at best, concerns grew over time that the original "top 2 at regionals go on to state" qualification pathway was narrow, outdated and would unintentionally omit teams that plausibly would have been good enough to win the state title in a given year (a generalized, but realistic situation would be the case of three of the state's five statistically-best teams based on year-long performances being in the same OAC region.) In 2019, reform came to simultaneously address the two concerns; the introduction of four Wild Card spots -- to be awarded to the four teams with the best statistical performances on team and alphabet round questions across the six regionals, who did not automatically qualify by virtue of finishing in the top two of their regional -- was implemented. This reform proved to be immediately satisfying of the concern over field legitimacy, as the third place finisher in the 2019 OAC State Tournament, Northmont High School, was the third place finisher in the previous stage of the tournament at the West Central regional.

Consistent State Bid Appropriation, by Region, as Opposed to Proportionality Pertaining to Volume

Generalized, although less vigorous, concerns have lofted in recent years by some in the Ohio quizbowl community as to whether or not regions with higher concentrations of Automatic Qualifiers within their regional purview could be appropriated an additional State Bid if it continues to be the case that another region with less concentration of teams who register for regionals ultimately has regional fields well below the capped sixteen (16) when the statewide field is 96 schools or less. As it is currently, every region is afforded two bids to state 'regardless' of how few teams participate in the sponsored regional tournament.

The likelihood that this dramatic change would be seriously discussed, examined and possibly implemented is low. Concerns exist that such a move could ultimately be bad organizational practice, and that serious outreach initiatives along with further study aimed toward increasing field numbers at a generally less-populated regional not only is a beneficial use of the Committee's time and resources but also serves a greater good in the long run. In addition, the concept of six regions across the state is borne out of the desire to have maximum geographic diversity that otherwise isn't often meaningfully acccomplished through other academic events. Furthermore, it is the case that a possible salve toward acknowledging high-density pockets of active teams and the desire for proportionality in bids -- without coming at the expense of a lesser-populated region -- can instead be accomplished by a critical evaluation of the current OAC Regions as it relates to geographic delineation (an example of which would be ascertaining where the line is between the West Central and Southwest Region actually sits with regards to schools that sit within the mesh of the Cincinnati and Dayton metropolitan areas.)

Configuration of Existing Regions w/r/t Geography

Criticisms exist that the current six-region model -- although a product of generally strong and intuitive reforms over the OAC's history and an improvement over the original four-region model that sharply divided the state into quadrants of Northwest, Northeast, Southeast and Southwest -- is vulnerable to particular regions being especially fluid, vague in its demarcations and sometimes not incorporative of plausible logistical challenges that schools within its region faces. This dilemma, which is largely a byproduct of Ohio's uneven population distribution increasing with masses of population further accumulating across three different points on a diagonal line resembling Interstate-71, along with the wide spans of farmland that distance exurban communities located far away from the "three C's" (Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus) is basically unfixable.

The most-commonly cited example of this problem is the fact there is not a regional specifically dedicated to the Columbus metropolitan area. Greater Columbus has traditionally been tethered to the Southeast Region, although it is the case in recent years that the fast-growing northern suburbs have seen their schools also assigned occasionally to the West Central regional and even the Northwest. Historically this has caused significant difficulty for Southern and Southeastern Ohio schools to qualify for the State tournament, to the point it may have discouraged long-term engagement with quizbowl for those schools, as the region had gone through a nearly-twenty year period of regional dominance at the hands of historical powerhouses Columbus St. Charles and Lancaster Fisher Catholic. Compounding that issue further is, in years where neither school both honed the top two finishes, the other bid to state (via outright championship or runner-up finish) generally would be obtained by a significantly-larger and ostensibly better funded suburban Columbus public school (compared to the generally smaller Southeastern Ohio schools that do not have the same funding leverage due to Ohio's unusual, and thrice-ruled unconstitutional, method of funding public schools.)

The other example of a vague yet complicated geographic footprint is the Northwest Region. Due to a combination of being unusually wide, as the western boundary is the Indiana state line and the eastern edge often extends to the community of Norwalk (located 120 miles east of the Ohio/Indiana line) with often expansions going as far east as Elyria, similarly tough verticality as the northern edge is the Michigan state line with the southern boundary often being Sidney (also a 120 mile length if one drives on I-75 north from Sidney to the Ohio/Michigan line) and an uncommonly low abundance of schools in the Greater Toledo area, the issue of distance being a barrier often bears out in the task of finding a consistent regional host whose location is most convenient for as many prospective schools as possible.

Opportunities to remedy this issue, to this point, appear to be only possible if the OAC revisits the opportunity to expand to eight regions. This concept, proffered in the mid-2010's, was opposed due to viability concerns.

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