The Loyola Ultima is an annual tournament held in mid- to late-October at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, Illinois.
In the Days of Team Illinois
Colonel David Riley, the head coach at Loyola, started the tournament as a early-in-the-year way of discovering potential candidates for Team Illinois, especially so that he could recommend to coaches that certain outstanding players be nominated in the event that they might not be nominated otherwise. Until 2008, when the IHSSBCA ceased sponsorship of Team Illinois, the round format was based on the format of the Panasonic Academic Challenge.
Each team played three rounds, with each room having either three or four teams. Each round consisted of two periods of twenty tossup questions, and a third period of twenty-five tossup questions. After each period there was a written, themed team handout worth a total of 10, 20, and 30 points, respectively. The tossups were worth five points each in the first period, ten points each in the second, and fifteen points each in the third. There were no rebounds, and any incorrect answer results in a deduction of the full value of the question.
After each round, teams were reshuffled based on their score, with the top teams meeting in the final round to determine place.
Questions were strictly academic in nature. There were no questions on sports, pop culture, or notorious IHSA topics like agriculture, drivers ed, industrial arts, or agriculture.
Riley devised a points system which he uses in determining the teams to be issued invitations to the tournament. Points were awarded based on how well a school's varsity and frosh-soph team did the previous season. Riley then invited the top twelve schools (with the exception that Loyola Academy is automatically invited every year), and moved down the list if teams rejected their invitations. With strong demand to get in, Riley rarely had to go past 15 on his list of invitees to fill the field.
The general criticisms that apply to the PAC can be applied to the tournaments held in this era. Notably, with 3-4 teams competing at once, it is more likely that a weak team can influence the outcome by buzzing in (even if they are incorrect), and stealing the opportunity to answer questions from a team in contention to win.
Another criticism of that era was the inclusion of Rileyisms, questions that deal with arcane, bizarre, or truly obscure material for any high school player, but which David Riley, defender of medieval Hungarian lore and proto-classical music, thinks is "common knowledge". It can be assumed that each tournament will have at least one music theory question that no one can answer, causing Col. Riley to criticize everyone present.
When in 2008 the IHSSBCA decided to stop sponsoring a team for the PAC beginning in 2009, Riley announced that Ultima would continue in mACF style. The 2009 incarnation was a mirror of the Dunbar Academic Fall Tournament.
- Both Stevenson and St. Ignatius were tied for third place.
- Winnebago was the consolation champion.
- With the 2018 tournament running late, Homewood-Flossmoor offered Evanston the opportunity to declare a tie for first place, with Evanston taking home the championship trophy. Evanston accepted this offer, and there was no playoff.