USC's Academic Team won its first tournament of the season, the National Academic Quiz Tournaments, against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Sept. 21. According to first-year electrical engineering student and team member Andrew Boland, it was the first ten to zero victory for the team "in at least a decade."
Boland, first-year chemistry and global studies student Isak Jatoi and second-year math and economics student Jasdeep Singh were the participants who won the tournament.
Eric Douglass, the Academic Team's adviser, said in an email interview the team is "the organization at USC that plays and promotes the game of quizbowl."
"The closest description for those not familiar with the game is that it is similar to a team version of Jeopardy, except the questions are longer and generally more focused on academic knowledge and less focused on trivia and pop culture," Douglass said.
There are different ways to get points and answer questions.
"Depending on when you buzz in, you get a certain amount of points. So it's either 15 if you buzz in early, 10 points if you buzz in after a certain mark, and you just compete for questions, and then for each question you get, your team gets a set of three bonus questions," said Jatoi.
The questions are generally academic trivia. Douglass said this ranges from "literature, science, religion, mythology and philosophy, fine arts, social science, and geography."
"There’s a particular thrill when you buzz in on a question super early, especially when it’s something you just went over in class a few days ago or read about and thought was so obscure you’d never hear of it again," Jatoi said.
The Academic Team practices and prepares before each tournament.
"Just practice questions, run through competing against other people, and we read on the way down, and read in the hotel room before, and that actually helped us a lot," Boland said.
At half time, the team was losing but was able to collaborate and dominate the competition.
"After the tournament, I honestly felt a mixture of surprise and elation — I thought we would do well, but I didn’t expect that we would go undefeated and win the tournament," Jatoi said in an email. "Our match against Georgia Tech A was particularly exciting; at half time we were down 45-255, but by the end of the second half we had tied 295-295. We then won the match by winning the tie breaker round. All in all, it was a really fun and exciting experience."
The team typically practices Mondays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. The team members study academic subjects outside of practices and said they try to foster an environment of learning just for the fun of it.
"Playing in tournaments is a good way to improve as well, and we play in about 7 to 10 tournaments a year," Douglass said.
The team had another competition over the weekend of Oct. 4 through 6 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Douglass said they competed against "UNC, Duke, NC State, William and Mary, UVA, Liberty, East Chapel Hill High School, and Virginia Tech."
The teams are usually made up of four students, but in this case, the team only had three. Jatoi, Boland, and Singh are all newcomers to the team this year but have quizbowl backgrounds.
"I kind of did this for fun," Singh said. "I did this for one semester in high school, too."
For Singh, winning was a humbling experience.
"Going through that competition really shows you just how much you don't know, even about topics you thought you were an expert in," Singh said in an email.
Boland said in an email he believes the Academic Team is important to the university because it is "a display of academic rigor" he enjoys being a part of.
"The academic team is important to me because it is a test of what I have learned and what I know," Boland. "[I]t is a way to improve my understanding and knowledge of the world around me."