Timeline of Quizbowl History

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A timeline of quizbowl history, with a focus on the game's development in the United States. For more targeted discussions of the game's history in other countries, see quizbowl in Canada or quizbowl in the United Kingdom.


c. 32 AD

Chapter 70 of Suetonius's Life of Tiberius describes the emperor peppering expert grammarians with mythological trivia such as "Who was the mother of Hecuba?," "What name did Achilles have among the girls?," and "What were the Sirens accustomed to singing?" In context, this anecdote takes place sometime between the death of Sejanus in 31 AD and Tiberius's own death in 37. While there are many prior examples in ancient literature of riddles and similar, this is the oldest known example of asking difficult factual questions of presumed educated people for the amusement of those involved.
Note that, even though Suetonius observed over 1900 years ago that such questions are taking knowledge of mythology "to a silly and laughable extreme" ("usque ad ineptias atque derisum"), at least the first two have come up in quizbowl on multiple occasions.

Early History


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


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


  • The final season of BBC program Transatlantic Quiz is aired on the NBC Blue Radio Network. Hosted by Alastair Cooke, this show involved a panel of Americans competing with a panel of Brits via undersea cable to promote Anglo-American relations during the second World War.[1]

Start of High School Quizbowl

Start of College Quizbowl

  • Campus Quiz debuts on WFIL Philadelphia radio. Also created by Butterworth, it is the first known interscholastic high school team-based quiz competition and involved high schools from in and around Philadelphia. It was hosted by Tom Moorehead and only seems to have run for one season, during which teams from recreation centers, hospitals, and military bases were brought in during school breaks.[1]
Students wait outside a theatre as they prepare to watch Campus Quiz
  • Intercollegiate Quiz is created by Wally Butterworth for the Mutual Radio Network and is the first intercollegiate quizbowl competition. Two teams of three from geographically close colleges compete.[1]
  • Top of the Form for British secondary schools debuts on BBC radio.
  • Scott Hi-Q (now Delco Hi-Q) begins in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
  • Bible Bowl organizer John P. Reynolds files U.S. patent #2,654,163 for the portable electronic lockout buzzer system.
  • An event by the name of Campus Quiz airs on WERD Atlanta and runs through at least 1950. It is unclear whether that this show, hosted by the nation's first black-owned radio station, is directly related to the show created by Wally Butterworth, who was a virulent racist and member of the KKK.[1]
  • Varsity Quiz Bowl for Louisiana high schools begins its run on WYES-TV. It is one of the first non-College Bowl quiz programs in the nation and ends in 1991 after 36 seasons.
  • Directly inspired by its predecessor, G.E. College Bowl premiers on television on CBS. It moves to NBC in 1963.
  • October 7: It's Academic, a quiz show for Washington, DC-area high schools, debuts. It is currently the world's longest continuously running quiz show.
  • Reach for the Top begins on CBC affiliate Vancouver CBUT-TV, featuring Vancouver-area teams.
  • Top of the Form is moved from BBC Radio 4 to BBC 1, becoming a television series.
  • The first national Reach for the Top competition is held in Montreal. The event is nationally televised on CBC the following year.
  • The earliest known packet sub invitational is held for College Bowl; there may have been another tournament the year prior and potentially more in the decade prior, but there is no concrete evidence of them happening.[1]
  • Trans-World Top Team, a cooperation between CBC and BBC featuring Canadian and British teams, runs for its sole season.
  • Varsity Quiz, a televised competition in Clark County, NV sponsored by the local Kiwanis club, begins. It is based on a contest in Anaheim, CA.
  • Knowledge Bowl is created by the San Juan County school board in Durango, Colorado.

The Advent of the NCT

  • Fall: College Bowl recruits writers from the Atlanta-area quizbowl circuit to begin its campus program in affiliation with the Association of College Unions International (ACUI).
  • May 4: Emory defeats Davidson at the inaugural National Invitation Tournament (NIT). This national championship held at Emory and likely introduced the use of the swiss pair system to quizbowl. Though originally written by writers affiliated with College Bowl, later iterations would use packet sub. The final NIT would be held in 1985.
  • December 4: The first KMO virtual quiz competition is run by Academic Hallmarks. The contest continues to run annually until spring of 2013.
  • Fall: The first iteration of the Maryland housewrite tournament Terrapin is held. Though it has skipped several years since its inception, it remains one of the longest running series of tournaments. Terrapin XXXI (Terrapin Open) was mirrored in the 2020-2021 season.
  • June 12-18: The sixth NAC is held in New Orleans, LA. This is the first of seven years in which the NAC is televised under the sponsorship of Texaco.
  • June 19-25: The Texaco Star National Academic Championship airs on The Discovery Channel.
  • June: The last Super Bowl and first NTAE are held.

The Early Modern Era of college quizbowl

  • June 11-17: The twelfth NAC is held in Houston, TX. The televised rounds are hosted by Mark L. Wahlberg as part of a syndication deal which turned out to be the final season of the televised show.
  • Summer: The seventh and final season of The Texaco Star National Academic Championship airs nationwide on various local PBS and commercial stations.
  • Spring: PACE is founded.
  • November 22: First NAQT SCT tournament held.
  • The Honda Campus All-Star Challenge stops holding its National Championship games on BET and instead moves towards hosting a National Championship Tournament akin to College Bowl's. This is also the first year that participants in HCASC are allowed to play "licensed tournaments" other than HCASC - however, in order for an event to be considered "licensed", it had to sign a statement acknowledging that the College Bowl Company had a trademark on intercollegiate academic competition.
  • Fall: The first NAQT high school tournaments are hosted.
  • January 24-25: The first NAQT ICT is held at Penn. Chicago defeats Harvard in the final by powering the last tossup of an overtime tiebreaker.
  • April 20: Virginia defeats Harvard in a controversial College Bowl NCT final. Incidents during the game itself as well as the revocation of the promised winners' prize afterwards spur Virginia to immediately announce that it will not be participating in College Bowl in the future.
  • Summer: An unknown number of teams play the first Virginia Open, whose records have been lost. In 1999, this tournament would be succeeded by Chicago Open, which would eventually become the capstone of the college quizbowl calendar.

The Early Modern Era of high school quizbowl

  • June 19-20: The first PACE NSC is held at Case Western. State College defeats Henry Ford II to claim the first high school quizbowl national title of the "modern era."
  • NAQT planned to host the first HSNCT this year, but it was canceled due to lack of interest.
1999 1999
  • April 24: Chicago wins ACF Nationals, completing the first Triple Crown season in history and finishing with an 88-0 record for their regular A team in non-College Bowl formats.
  • November 3: The first ACF Fall held. It is now the most widely played college set of the year.
  • June 12: Thomas Jefferson defeats State College in the PACE NSC final, completing what is still the only double-undefeated performance at HSNCT and NSC and an undefeated year in pyramidal formats.
  • Fall 2005: High school quizbowl starts in Canada.
  • June 14: HSAPQ is founded.
  • September 27: The first HSAPQ tournament is hosted at North Carolina.

The Modern Era of college quizbowl

  • June: The last Panasonic NTAE is held without Panasonic's financial backing; the tournament collapses soon after.

The Modern Era of high school quizbowl

  • May 7-8: The first MSNCT is held at Hyatt Regency O'Hare near Chicago.
  • March 20: NAQT announces that a website security review has found evidence of Andy Watkins accessing question material prior to three ICTs in which he participated. Four Harvard titles are revoked and Watkins is suspended from NAQT membership, resigning soon after.
  • May 3-4: The first SSNCT is held at the Hilton Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.
  • May 31-June 1: LASA defeats St. John's to win the 2014 HSNCT. At 272 teams, it is by far the largest quizbowl tournament ever held to that point.
  • June 14-17: NTAE is revived after a four-year hiatus. It would last two years before not being held in 2016.
  • April 12: Virginia wins ACF Nationals outright. With their win against Yale at ICT, they win both major collegiate championships, the first time the titles are unified since 2009.
  • May 7-8: Middlesex defeats Longfellow on the last tossup to win the 2016 MSNCT. With 160 teams, it is the largest middle school quizbowl tournament ever held.
  • May 26-28: The 2017 HSNCT takes place in Atlanta, GA, with Hunter College High School defeating Detroit Catholic Central in the final. 304 teams take part as the HSNCT breaks its own record for the largest single-site quizbowl tournament ever.
  • May 25–27: The 2018 HSNCT breaks the previous HSNCT's record as the largest single-site quiz bowl tournament ever, with 352 teams. The record has yet to be broken.
  • March-May: The COVID-19 pandemic prompts the cancellation of almost all in-person quizbowl events across the country, including the NAQT and PACE National Championships for 2020. The 2020 NAQT Community College Championship Tournament (February 28–29) is the only national championship held in-person in 2020.
  • Summer-Fall: The quizbowl circuit shifts online with online quizbowl becoming the primary medium of practice and competition.
  • November 8: Alex Trebek, host of the gameshow Jeopardy!, passes away at the age of 80 after a long fight with pancreatic cancer. Alex's hosting of Jeopardy! has been cited as many players' motivation for joining quizbowl.
  • November 24: NBC announces its revival of College Bowl as a television show. Due to its format being altered to better suit television, it remains distant from pyramidal quizbowl.
  • August 7-8: The 2021 ACF Nationals is held in-person, becoming the first national championship tournament to not be held online since the 2020 CCCT a year and a half prior.
  • June 18-19: Team Liberia attends the 2022 NASAT, becoming the first known African team to attend a pyramidal quizbowl tournament.
  • June 10-11: TJHSST loses to Barrington in its fifth consecutive PACE NSC finals appearance, breaking the record for the longest streak of finals appearances at a high school national championship. Barrington's win would also allow them to unify the HSNCT and NSC titles for the first time since 2014.
  • March 31-April 1: Waterloo wins the Division II title at the 2023 ICT, becoming the first Canadian team (and, by extension, the first non-US team) to win a national title at any level of mainstream quizbowl.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 CollegeBowlValhalla: Notes on the origin of quiz bowl