Skip to main content

Totally 'buzzworthy': The 2012 ASU Academic Bowl

September 25, 2012

An early fall breeze swept through campus yesterday, ruffling abandoned newspapers and stirring up the first faint smells of autumn, reminding me that something serious is afoot.

The ASU Academic Bowl.

Admittedly, the breeze I felt was much more chilling – the kind that blasts from my office A/C vent and carries with it my boss' casual reminder of the annual event's return, just days away. (Five days to be exact.)

Having been in a state of hibernation for 358 days, the ASU Academic Bowl awakens each October for one week of intense brain-wracking, head-scratching, thumb-buzzing, high-fiving, skull-cramming, ego-crushing, blackout-inducing, "How the heck did you know that," robot-like academic competition among the university's brainiest students.

And it's awesome. (Frightening, yes, but awesome.)

Opening rounds:
4-6 p.m. & 7-9 p.m., Oct. 1, Pima Room, MU
4-6 p.m. & 7-9 p.m., Oct. 2, Pima Room, MU

Here's how it works:

Sixteen teams from schools and colleges across Arizona State University, each comprised of four players, go head to head in two nights of opening-round, rapid-fire question-and-answer play. Each team is jockeying for optimal position – a spot in the semi-finals which takes place on the third night of competition – for the chance to win the coveted championship trophy, school bragging rights, and a boatload of cash.

But getting there is rough.

Each match is a 15-minute marathon of questions and answers, requiring lightning speed and ninja focus. In order to win the points, one must first win the toss-up question – a feat for those quick on the trigger with information recall capabilities on par with Google.

You see, to win the ASU Academic Bowl, a team must be both fast and precise – in a word, "buzzworthy," or, as I see it, a team's ability to be the first to buzz in while staying cool under pressure, i.e. correctly answering the question.

Premature buzzing, or deciding to guess the answer, is a risky move that can result in point deductions and, ultimately, a loss – not to mention haunting visions of that creepy Grail Knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. "He chose poorly."

However, if answered "wisely," toss-up questions lead to bonus questions, which in turn, can lead to some serious point-padding.

And this is where the game gets interesting.


We've got you covered: Can't make it to the opening rounds in the Memorial Union?

Follow the action on Twitter / @asunews_insider will be live tweeting / hashtag #ASUacbowl

Watch the competition live on ASUtv and ASUtv Ustream

Live web stream, Twitter updates, videos, photos and articles at

A set of won bonus questions can ramp up a team's score of anywhere up to 25 points (toss-up points included), and become the deciding factor between a clear winner and loser. More information on how the game is played is available here.

The questions run the gamut – everything from world politics and pop culture, to history and geography, to that Russian author who wrote "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina" – you know this! – but for the life of you can't spit his name out fast enough. 

You think an engineering team doesn't know their Leo Tolstoy? Think again. And if I had a nickel for every time the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts correctly answered an algebra question that required pen and paper, I'd have, well, a good chunk of change. (I'm not sure exactly how much.  I was never good at math.)

But wait, it gets better. Add $24,000 in scholarship money to the pot and you begin to understand why the competition can get a little heated.

If $24,000 isn't enough of a grand prize for you, then take comfort in the most priceless reward of them all: proof that your college or school is smarter than the rest. (For most players, though, the cold, hard cash is enough.)

The spectacular battle of wits is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m., Oct. 1, in the Memorial Union, Pima Room, on the Tempe campus. The second night of opening round competition continues Oct. 2, with the semi-final and final rounds set to take place Oct. 4, in the Eight, Arizona PBS studios on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Check the schedule for more details. And don't let "no" be your final answer – come out and support our students at the 2012 ASU Academic Bowl. You won't be sorry you did.

You might even pick up a few pointers for the next time you face your friends – or, God forbid, your spouse – in a "friendly" game of trivia.

If you can't make it to the event, you can follow the action on Twitter @asunews_insider (hashtag #ASUacbowl) and also on ASUtv and ASUtv Ustream, which will be broadcasting the event live. For a one-stop shop – complete with live streaming and tweeting, and articles, videos and photos – visit