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ASU's Academic Bowl emphasizes brain over brawn

ASU Academic Bowl logo

The ASU Academic Bowl pits teams of students against each other for the chance to win scholarship money and prestige.

October 05, 2015

For three nights this October the geeks shall inherit the stage.

Today, Arizona State University kicks off the 10th annual Academic Bowl, which pits teams of students against each other for the chance to win scholarship money and prestige.

The event is spread out over three days and features teams of four from different schools within the college. Scholarship money worth $24,000 is divided among the winning team and $10,000 is divided among the runners-up, averaging out to $6,000 and $2,500 per student, respectively.  

For the past three years, the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering has walked away victorious, having ended the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ five-year winning streak in 2012. 

“Our team was best during our freshman and sophomore year,” said Wesley Fullmer of the Engineering Maroon team. “We’ll be a little rusty this year, so we’ll try to take things slower.”

Fullmer explained that the biggest danger to a team’s success in the Academic Bowl is answering questions too quickly and getting overconfident.

“Typically you don’t need to play as fast against a bad team,” he said. “We have the same team as last year so for the most part we’ll just be trying not to beat ourselves.” 

Students are given toss-up questions, worth 10 points each, and if they get the question right they’re given a bonus question worth between 10 and 30 points. If the 15-minute match ends in a tie, a sudden death round begins wherein the first team to answer a toss-up question correctly is given 10 points and the win.   

Moderating the first round between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering is Connie Pangrazi. This will be her first time moderating since the 2012 Academic Bowl.

“The hardest part of my job is the complexity of the questions,” said Pangrazi, an assistant dean in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “I just received the packet of questions that will be asked in the mail. The majority of the words are spelled phonetically which makes things hard when reading the question aloud.”

What’s interesting is how the questions are selected. According to Pangrazi, each of the colleges buys the questions from the sponsors of the event.

“When you purchase the questions you must sign documents saying you won’t give them to anyone else,” she said. “It’s all tightly regulated.”

Eyes will also be focused on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which still holds the most Academic Bowl championships out of any school at ASU. But will it stay that way for long?

“The team we’re most worried about is Engineering Maroon,” said Liberal Arts and Sciences Maroon team member Raymie Humbert. “It’s true we have more titles but we’re not the number one team going into this. We’re probably number two.”

Humbert said that things are very different now than they’d been during the heyday of the Liberal Arts and Sciences teams.

“We’ve lost our alternate (player) and three of our main starters,” Humbert said. “But we do have Quiz Bowl and Academic Bowl experience.”

Catch this year’s action starting at 4 p.m. today and tomorrow in the Memorial Union Pima Room. The semifinals and finals will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Cronkite Studio A on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. View the full schedule here.

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