Quiz Bowl practice 2022

From left, Eddie Fuhrer ’25, Diana Shaipi ’24, Gregory Lin ’23, Josh Miller, Sasha Rabeno ’24, Marietta Sisca ’23 and Eric Yang ’25 at a Quiz Bowl practice in March. Club founder Will Yaeger ’24 is seated up front asking questions.

Lehigh Quiz Bowl Team Heads to Intercollegiate Championship Tournament

A team of four Lehigh students is headed to the Chicago area for the premier national competition less than two years into the club’s existence.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Eli Brennan ’24

In high school, Will Yaeger ’24 enjoyed the competition of Quiz Bowl and the exposure to the various academic disciplines it provided. He wanted to continue playing, but when he arrived at Lehigh, he realized they didn’t have a Quiz Bowl club.

Yaeger took it upon himself to change that.

Figuring others might be interested, he approached several of his classmates in the IDEAS (Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences) program about starting the club. He worked with Lehigh’s Student Senate to create the club and asked Jenna Lay, his IDEAS advisor and a former Quiz Bowl player herself, to be faculty advisor.

“There's a lot of value in Quiz Bowl,” Yaeger says. “It's a lot of fun, but beyond that, it really promotes a kind of intellectual curiosity and breadth of knowledge that’s important for people to have. That's the kind of thing that a university should be able to provide to its students through things outside of the classroom as well as in.”

Less than two years old, the club has not only begun to compete against other colleges, but it has found success, assembling a team that has qualified for the National Academic Quiz Tournaments’ (NAQT) Intercollegiate Championship Tournament (ICT) April 1-2 in Rosemont, Illinois.

Quiz Bowl is a fast-paced, team-based trivia competition that Yaeger says some describe as “Jeopardy, with teams,” although he says that oversimplifies the game.

Two teams—each possessing a buzzer—of four players answer toss-up questions. Any individual can answer the questions, which are pyramidal in nature, meaning they begin with tough clues that progressively get easier by the end of the question. Players can answer at any point, but correct answers given earlier in a question are awarded more points. Points are subtracted for incorrect answers. Bonus questions are given to a team each time they accurately answer a toss-up question.

Most games consist of 20 questions, with an additional bonus question immediately read for each correctly answered toss-up question, although some tournaments have more questions or use a clock.

There's a lot of value in Quiz Bowl. It's a lot of fun, but beyond that, it really promotes a kind of intellectual curiosity and breadth of knowledge that’s important for people to have.

Will Yaeger ’23

Lehigh’s club meets twice per week—Wednesdays and Fridays—at different times each day in hopes of accommodating anyone who is interested, Yaeger says. They read academic trivia questions and discuss interesting topics they’re learning about or some of the questions they review.

“I think everybody leaves every practice having learned something new,” Yaeger says. “I know I certainly do.”

The group formed in Fall 2020, the first full semester that was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so the small group of students that initially joined practiced over Zoom. Many aspects of life were disrupted that year, and the timing proved to be ideal for starting Lehigh’s Quiz Bowl club.

While Yaeger noted that the quality of the practices and engagement during practices improved once in-person meetings resumed, he thinks initial interest in the club was boosted by the fact that people were looking for things to do while remote during the pandemic. Lay, associate professor of English and the College of Arts and Sciences’ director of special programs, agreed. She said the creation of the club benefited new Lehigh students.

“I think being able to hold practices virtually helped [the club], but it also acted as a space to create community and as a way to foster those connections,” Lay says. “That was especially important for those students who were first years in 2020-2021, when it was really difficult adjusting to what it means to be a Lehigh student or what it means to be in college when they didn't have the normal activities or a lot of the typical resources.”

She says she finds it interesting that an IDEAS student created the group and that a number of the students in the club are also from intercollegiate programs. “It speaks to the broad-ranging interests of students in those programs and their intellectual capacities,” she says.

Yaeger says so far the club has had about 10 students participate in a number of weekend tournaments. Due to the pandemic, most tournaments have been virtual, but the students attended their first in-person tournament last fall at the University of Maryland. Approximately 15 to 20 students come to practice on a semi-regular basis with additional students interested in attending.

Lay gives all the credit to Yaeger and the club’s members for the group’s early success. She says she only acts as a sounding board, occasionally helping the club to identify possible resources. As for fundraising, finding the best approach for attending tournaments, and developing the club’s constitution, executive board and organizational structure, the club has done all of that on its own.

Last month, the Quiz Bowl club entered two teams into the Division II grouping of the NAQT New York Sectional and one of the teams, consisting of Yaeger, Eddie Fuhrer ’25, Gregory Lin ’23 and Diana Shaipi ’24, qualified for the ICT along with teams from Columbia, Cornell and Johns Hopkins. Lay says qualifying for the ICT, one of two premiere Quiz Bowl tournaments for colleges across North America and the United Kingdom, so soon after the group was formed is a pleasant surprise.

“I would have expected it to take a little bit longer just to get used to the format, to get students up to speed on what Quiz Bowl even is, to get enough players invested in it,” Lay says. “If they had done this in three or four years, I would have been delighted for them.”

Yaeger says he never expected to qualify for the ICT but always hoped the team would at some point. And when he saw the talent in the group this year—a few strong players who had gained collegiate experience last year and a few new faces—he was optimistic about qualifying this year.

Shaipi, who says she met most of her friends at Lehigh through Quiz Bowl, doesn’t have any expectations for the team at the ICT. She’s just looking forward to the experience.

“I'm just proud of the team,” Shaipi says. “I just expect to meet a lot of people who are really smart and passionate about Quiz Bowl, because a big part of this experience is also that you get to meet a lot of kids from other universities.”

In addition to holding practices and attending tournaments, the club has hosted Thursday night trivia nights on campus through Lehigh After Dark. Yaeger says the club would also eventually like to organize a campus Quiz Bowl tournament.

“Campus events are a pretty good way for us to interface with the rest of the university community and make people who are already interested in trivia aware of our club,” Yaeger says. “I think that events that serve the university community are important and something that we want to continue to do and ideally do more of.”

Yaeger says the club is also exploring the possibility of Lehigh hosting high school and college Quiz Bowl tournaments in the future.

“Hosting tournaments for either local high schools or other colleges in the region is something that we're working to slowly build up our capacity to do because we think that's a great way to give back to the broader academic trivia community outside of just Lehigh,” Yaeger says.

Story by

Stephen Gross

Photography by

Eli Brennan ’24

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