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Format unification

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 2:22 pm
by Matt Weiner
To keep the NAC thread on target, here's a new thread for a separate issue that was raised.

My own opinion is that there does not need to be one format, nor will there be. Almost any format can be fair and academic given the proper writers. One could write four-quarter games that featured pyramidal tossups and good subject balance if one so chose (Chip chooses not to).

Even in the unlikely event that only one national was left standing, I don't see why all the state and local events would follow suit. A lot of the weird state formats are locked in by rulebooks (some of which seem to have been written by the football coaches who run the state competition assocations). It seems that some of these states adopted bizarre formats just for the sake of being different. It's no mistake that some of the places with the oddest formats are also the most insular about interacting with the national community or sending teams to out of state tournaments.

We may see more standardization in areas with more active circuits that are tied to some form of continuity, whether that be full-time quizbowl coaches who go to invitationals and not just the state championship events, or college programs that run high school tournaments. As things stand today, just about every really active high school circuit uses minor variants on either tossup/bonus or four quarter format exclusively. The exception of course is DC, where "It's Academic" style tournaments run rampant.

As ASCN continues to shrink and more and more serious teams abandon Chip, I'd be interested to see if the four quarter format also goes the way of the dodo. I doubt it will, and there's no fairness need for it to do so, but if all the teams in, for example, the Southeast who go to out of state events eventually see that the college-run invitationals and the NAQT and PACE nationals are all in tossup/bonus (even if PACE does it in a unique way) perhaps it will become necessary to prepare for such tournaments by playing that format more.

Re: Format unification

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 5:28 pm
by Ben Dillon
Matt Weiner wrote:Even in the unlikely event that only one national was left standing, I don't see why all the state and local events would follow suit.
Actually, it wouldn't surprise me if a fair number would follow suit. Indiana has used the QU format for eight years now, but, hypothetically, if NAC didn't exist, there would be little reason to stick to that format.

One of the reasons NAQT is gaining, I believe, is that they have an excellent website that publicizes tournaments in their format. Tournaments in that format send qualifiers to the national tournament in that format, and teams that want to go to the national tournament know that they must seek a qualifier on the same rules. ASCN and QU should do the same if they wish to promote their own format.

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 8:58 pm
by First Chairman
ASCN, like PACE, is a non-profit organization that does not run a ton of competitions in its own style although they do run four quarters format (unlike PACE). I think they are happy doing their own little thing, but they do not sell tournament sets of questions to run all across the country outside of their own sets. (PACE on the other hand is happy to give its question sets out on request to teams that register for the NSC.)

In contrast both QU and NAQT are question-writing companies, so it would make sense for them to declare where their questions are being used. Why Chip hasn't done that in the past I don't quite know, but it is a nice benefit that NAQT does disclose where its questions are being used.

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:09 pm
by zwtipp
E.T. Chuck wrote:ASCN ... is a non-profit organization
From the tournament this year, our teams first experience with ASCN, it seemed like they were trying to make as much money as possible.

It's $100 for a past year's set of questions. There are a lot of questions and I even remember reading through the sets we had bought then hearing some of the same questions while listening to matches!

They put 5 students to a room. A room with two beds and a sofa does NOT comfortably house 5 people.

The few pluses were:
Lunch provided most days as well as breakfast.
Lots of time for sightseeing.

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 9:53 pm
by Stained Diviner
It seems to me like there are more important differences than match format. To me, the biggest differences between NAQT and PACE are (in no particular order):
NAQT power matches (or Swiss Pairs) from the beginning
NAQT has more calculation tossups
NAQT has easier giveaways at the ends of their tossups
NAQT has more trivia. (Less trivia than most tournaments, but more trivia than PACE)
NAQT allows you to lose four matches the first day and still be in the hunt
PACE structures their consolation rounds

To me, all of these things seem more important than being able to choose your bonus using cryptic clues, the fact that some bonuses are worth more than others, or negs.

As a representative of a state that sends less than its fair share (but a growing number) of teams to national tournaments, I would say that the two biggest differences between Illinois questions and these two nationals is the amount of math and the general quality of the questions. (Illinois questions are not the worst, but they are not the best either.)

I don't think that there will be a unification of formats, and I don't know if it is all that important. The Panasonic format is significantly different than the other nationals, but I think that the important differences between the other nationals has more to do with things other than match formats.

One idea I do have is setting up a panel of ten or so people with various viewpoints and having them analyze questions from various tournaments. What do those questions really test? Is there a reason to think that a certain set is better at separating one team from another? Etc.

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 10:10 pm
by First Chairman
All quiz bowl games (and most academic competitions for that matter) really test on the first level of Bloom's taxonomy: recall of information. After that point, the analysis is probably going to be subjective in my opinion. I bring up the point that I'm involved with Academic Decathlon, which prides itself as being the premier academic competition in the US. Of course, for those of us on this board, how can we say that judging speeches, interviews, and essays are inherently academic to the same point as quiz bowl? On the other hand, it does have the ability (in theory) to test much deeper knowledge (upper levels of Bloom's taxonomy) than quiz bowl could.

Taking that off the board, what we test and how we test it are extremely important issues in educational assessments now, and probably lay beyond the scope of this forum. But just as the SAT and ACT do not really test or predict academic success, I don't think our artificial constructions of academic games would do the same either.

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 10:16 pm
by wd4gdz
E.T. Chuck wrote:(PACE on the other hand is happy to give its question sets out on request to teams that register for the NSC.)
Why aren't PACE questions allowed to be viewed by non-registered NSC people?


Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 10:28 pm
by First Chairman
Note: this is mostly my personal opinion and partially represents past practices with PACE.

While they are available on request (and we are trying to put some of our older sets up for free), we want to be sure that certain people don't decide to pilfer our questions for their own illicit purposes. (Points to :chip: . :cool: )

More importantly, we like to distribute the questions to teams that are truly interested in competing at PACE. We are working to vamp the website to a point where people who would like to download them can do so, but I would like some safeguards in access. Besides, we would like those teams that actually paid to listen to the questions to benefit from the experience of playing them rather than having the questions be completely free to all persons who didn't compete on them. We do want teams to attend after all, and we recognize the best way to prepare for PACE is to actually understand the question-styles we use. But I think those teams that do play at PACE for the first time recognize, nothing really beats actual tournament experience for preparation, no matter how much we try to give people the 411 on it.

So the general gist is: sure I can give you our old question sets, but you have to promise you'll actually register with us to compete at PACE rather than just use them for practice or to run a tournament of your own without doing any work writing the questions. :)

Posted: Sat Jun 18, 2005 11:27 pm
by quizbowllee
Before I weigh in on the format consolidation idea, I think a bit of background is needed.

I played in middle school and high school in Alabama. My team in high school was competitive locally, but we didn't even KNOW that there were national tournaments. Our "coach" only took us to tournaments that were held on Fridays so she could get out of work. She WOULD NOT take us to tournaments on the weekends because she "had better things to do."

I always loved the game, and resented the fact that I didn't have a better experience in high school. I vowed to be the kind of coach that I always wished I had had.

That being said, the Alabama format is terrible. But, I didn't know that then... It was all I knew. The questions are usually very, very short and non-pyramidal. They are also full of hoses, and blitzing is not allowed.

Even my first year of college (I played in the Alabama College Bowl League at Snead State CC), we played mostly other Alabama CCs. I remember a question at our STATE tournament that was :

"Name the chief of the Norse Gods." That was the whole question...

My second year in college, the league started using NAQT questions. I then transferred to Athens State and started the team there...

Now, because of this terrible format in Alabama, I started out in college pretty pitiful. I believe it was Sudheer who made a VERY public spectacle of my lack of prowess despite the fact that I had been playing since 6th grade. However, the format I was playing was so far removed from REAL quiz bowl, that I really only played for a couple of years...

Now, because of this, I am adamantly AGAINST any type of format consolidation. NAQT and PACE are the ONLY national tournaments that are worth having. The NAC questions (I came to find out that :chip: was responsible for a good deal of the questions in Alabama during my "career"), are terrible and do not measure real skill or knowledge.

From comments I've read on this board, it seems like NAC is for teams that know that they don't know enough to compete in a real tournament... But they still want a chance at a National Title. I knew that Brindlee Mountain couldn't win PACE or NAQT, but that's not the important thing...
Maybe we coulda won NAC with a little luck, but that's not legitimate to me or to my team.

Unfortunately, we're stuck in Alabama where tournaments are generally awful, but we're doing our part to change things here...

No consolidation. Multiple formats are good and make things more interesting. If you just "GOTTA" have one true national champ, here's a clue: TJ A. They won BOTH legitimate tournaments.

My rant.


Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 2:15 am
by mf_2
I know what naqt and pace are , but what exactly is NAC?

and what is blitzing?

Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 9:40 am
mf_2 wrote:I know what naqt and pace are , but what exactly is NAC?

and what is blitzing?
NAC is one of five major quiz bowl national championship tournaments; along with NAQT, PACE, ASCN and PAC. It's ran by Chip Beall, who favors shorter questions that contain a relatively small number of clues relating to the answer.

Over a series of weekends, he holds three separate stages of his tournament at three different sites; this year, they were in Washington, DC; New Orleans; and Chicago. Between the three stages, it is typically the largest national each year; this year, a total of 114 teams competed.

Each match consists of four quarters; the first and fourth have buzzer questions of varying length and value, the second has both toss-ups and bonuses, and the third has lightning round questions.

More information can be found at

As for where he stands in quiz bowl - many people enjoy his competitions, as shown by the number of teams that attend. However, many people feel that he has done various things that have harmed the circuit - among these are accusations of plagiarism, favoritism and catering to a non-existent television audience rather than attempting to hold a fair tournament. Others feel that his national tournament shouldn't be qualified as such, due to its type of questions and their content and the fact that many top teams from NAQT/PACE choose not to attend NAC.

Please note that despite my personal feelings regarding Chip's format, I attempted to keep said feelings out of the explanation as best as possible. This is the best I can do at a fair explanation of Chip without unfairly bringing in aspects of a flame war. I know many people will disagree with what I said, but as far as an intro, I don't think I could do any better.

Oh, and blitzing is buzzing in during a question and giving multiple pieces of information when you're still unsure of what specific piece is desired. For example, buzzing in with "The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway" halfway through a question that could be asking about either of them.

Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2005 10:12 am
by First Chairman
There is also more with Chip in that he writes questions all the time and runs/contracts with a number of competitions. For many years he was pretty much the only major player in national-town (the other being College Bowl, Inc. but the high school game was not really their major emphasis). But he has run his competitions for longer than any of the other groups, and is certainly responsible for getting a lot of teams involved early on. He does his Twenty Questions and QuizNet competitions frequently during the school year, which does keep interest in the game going in more remote areas who want to play virtually (something that NAQT has not yet breached).

MSHSAA format

Posted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 2:22 am
by genius00345
The Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) format allows for a 4-quarter match.

1st and 3rd Quarter: Fifteen 10-point toss up questions
2nd and 4th Quarter: Ten 10-point toss-ups*

* If a team answers a toss-up correctly in the 2nd and 4th quarters, they are given a chance to answer a bonus, always consisting of four related parts worth 5 points each. Depending on the nature of the question (list, four separate questions, etc.), if a team answers incorrectly, the other team has a chance to answer that section of the bonus (what we call "rebounding"). A listing question (e.g., Name four of the five Great Lakes.) provides that the team give 4 answers, they are told which of theirs are correct and given points for them, and then the other team has the chance to get 5 points for each of the other answers not yet correctly given. The team captain (who normally, but not always, sits in the second chair from the middle) always gives the answer to the moderator, and no answer from another player is accepted.

TIMIMG: Basic toss-up 5 seconds to buzz in. Calculation 15 seconds. Bonus either 5 per part or 30 for listing.

I enjoy playing under this format. It is not a timed match, and calculators are not permitted; only pencil and paper.

Any criticisms for this format? Like it? Reply here or email me. I'd be interested to know.

Posted: Thu Jul 28, 2005 11:04 pm
by Tegan
Now that I have been out and about a bit to see some more formats, I am of the opinion that:

1. There will be no unified format, unless a single National Federation is formed.....that is not a company, but a non-for-profit National Federation that invites activities directors and coaches to serve on its board, and who then legislate rules and structure. Even then, individual state organizations that govern quizbowl would need to sign on. This is what happens in sports and almost all other sanctioned activities (chess, debate, parchisi, etc)

2. Even if this were to come to pass, individual states would still be free to legislate individual rules changes for their own states...though these would likely be minor.

3. The likely outcome would be a system of rules that falls somewhere in the middle of all of the current rules. In other words the rules of NAQT and PACE and PAC and ASCN and NMSQT, and WXYZ would not be the rules de jure, and those tournaments would need to strongly consider changing their rules (and potentially quesiton writing styles to fall in line...or they could choose not to and potentially suffer).

The problem is that no matter what happens, attempts to compromise will leave some group on the outside. If this compromise tended toward thirty question rounds with questions ilke "Name the first president of hte United States." There would be a massive exodus of the strong teams...but there would be no national concensus, and we would be back to square one.

I think if this is such a big deal, then the next phase is the formation of a national high school quizbowl federation (NHSQBF). It must be separate from any company. The problem is this is a <<MASSIVE>> undertaking. These federations are rather large in scope. While the vision of how to get it started is a big deal, it is all for naught if individual states do not sign on. It almost seems like you need to get assurances from the individual state associations to sign aboard before you even start, though I am sure none of them would sign aboard unless they could see what was happening first.

I can only speak for sure from Illinois' perspective, but I would guess that a number of states are the same. The IHSA (governing body for all sports and quizbowl) would not change on a simple whim. The only way we would change this is if the coaches in the state called for a change (sadly, not likely), or the IHSA partnered with a national federation and mandated change.

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 1:39 pm
by samer
Tegan wrote:Now that I have been out and about a bit to see some more formats, I am of the opinion that:

1. There will be no unified format, unless a single National Federation is formed.....that is not a company, but a non-for-profit National Federation that invites activities directors and coaches to serve on its board, and who then legislate rules and structure. Even then, individual state organizations that govern quizbowl would need to sign on. This is what happens in sports and almost all other sanctioned activities (chess, debate, parchisi, etc)
Not to be facetious, but, if it were so "simple," why aren't there any national championships in, say, basketball or wrestling?

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2005 3:33 pm
by dtaylor4
Can you imagine how many teams that would involve? Also, with the amount of time one of those would take, eventually they're gonna get tired.

Posted: Wed Aug 03, 2005 1:22 am
by Matt Weiner
National championships in major athletic events aren't necessary because there is always top-level competition in state no matter where in the country you are. Until such time as that is true for quizbowl, the best teams will have to travel to get a real challenge and insularity will be a negative force.

Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 5:39 pm
by Tegan
samer wrote:
Not to be facetious, but, if it were so "simple," why aren't there any national championships in, say, basketball or wrestling?
I'm sorry if I misled. In fact this is hardly easy or simple...especially when you get a bunch of people together from various states (even if it was just those states who "cared"), and tried to settle on a single format. That alone would be monumental since there seem to be almost as many formats as states that show interest.

I was not addressing the issue of a national championship, per se, but the idea of a single national format used among the states.

Wrestling does have national championships that are held each year. In the case of wrestling, it is more individual (at the national level). This is because almost every state has season limitations in place. Teams cannot compete, but individuals are free to compete on their own. In other cases, like football, a national championship is completely unreaslistic, since by the time you whittled down the teams from the best 20 or so to the final two, the football season would be ending in May. Even basketball would have that same problem. You could do a poll to select a few top teams, but national polls like that don't even work well in college sports. In high school, they have even less validity.

Sports have strict limitations for the logical reason that young athletes can be permanetly injured if they over indulge in a single activity. No matter the sport, young athletes are advised to either take a little time off each year, or work in a sport that emphasizes different skills and motions to prevent overtaxing the body. Obviously, our activity does not really have that health issue to deal with, though many states just blanket legislate limitations to all of the activities that they govern.

Years and years ago, there were national championships for high school students in many sports (they were usually sponsored by a university). The school I teach at won two "national" swimming titiles back in the 1920s.

Even if all of this were doable, there are some states with travel limitations. For example, in Illinois, I could not bring my team to Florida without getting special permission from my school board, and even if they said yes, I would need approval from the State Association (which just denied two teams planning to got to a San Diego basketball tournament this Christmas). I am essentially limited to 300 miles from my school. I know that Illinois is not alone in that restriction. If I wer eto get caught, then I would likely lose my job, not to mention the possibility of sanctions on the program. Does it stink? Yeah. Is it reality? Yes.

There are a lot of hurdles (some of which are dumb, and some of which are legit; some of which can be overcome, and some of wihch will only be overcome with a lot of effort).

Posted: Tue Aug 09, 2005 11:44 pm
by Chris Frankel
Tegan wrote: Wrestling does have national championships that are held each year.
No it doesn't. There are several national-scale tournaments out there that claim to be national: the National Prep Tournament for private school wrestlers (often about as tough as a top state tournament in terms of difficulty, though, as it excludes the majority of talent, which comes from the public school field. The NHSCA (National High School Coaches Association of America) sponsors a tournament for high school seniors only, but again that excludes a substantial portion of the field to the point of preventing it from being labelled a legit national tournament. Neither of those have any sort of qualifying metric other than being able to make weight and show up to wrestler. There's also the Dapper Dan Classic, which consists of a dual match between a handpicked team of wrestlers from the country against one from Pennsylvania, but that's obviously more of an all-star exhibition than any sort of national championship. At least when discussing with people in the know, there's no way of referring to a national champion wrestler because of the substantial gaps each tournament offers. You can talk about NHSCA champions (the NHSCA also hosts a far less prestigious and well-attended tournament for underclassmen) or National Prep champions, but not high school national wrestling champions ala the way the NCAA does. There are no national sanctioning bodies or even a single season end tournament with an open national field and the claim to be awariding a national title in the high school division.

The closest events you could compare to a high school national tournament would be Cadet Nationals and Junior Nationals, both of which are summer tournaments where attendance is based on state affiliation and not high school team affiliation, the rules used are those of Greco Roman and freestyle (each version has its own tournament) as opposed to the collegiate wrestling style, and additionally those are divided by age groups rather than class year, preventing a truly open high school age field.

Anyway, long story short, from someone who's been a wrestler both at the high school and NCAA level (if only minimally and very badly for the latter), it's definitely very complicated, if not moreso than quiz bowl. Of course, I don't think the lack of a unified formats is a bad thing, just as with QB; dealing with the streams of bureaucracy required for NCAA sanctioning (e.g. nonsensical forced hydration tests mandated as a reactionary measure to some bad press a few years ago, volumes of forms to fill out, silly conduct rules ranging far out of the realms of the activity being sanctioned, etc) was one issue that made college wrestling a lot less enjoyable than high school. College quiz bowl's increased decentralization is actually one of the most appealing things about the activity to me; if it were just CBI running the show as in the old days, I'd have dropped it long ago.

Posted: Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:16 am
by Stained Diviner
A major reason that sports are unified is college scholarships. High school rules are very similar to college rules because high school state administrators want their kids to be as prepared for college sports as kids from other states. There are some variations due to safety, cost, (high schools don't want to pay for the wrestling testing described above, but they have made parallel rules that are cheaper), and occasionally tradition, but even then one state doesn't want to do something different than colleges when another state is doing the same thing as colleges.

We don't have college scouts attend or view tapes of our matches. If we did, and if those scouts said they prefer students from another state because that state prepares students for the college game better, then changes would be made. Nobody would stick to a four quarter format (or whatever) if they thought it would make their students less likely to win something valued at over $100,000.

I believe that a good historical example would be girls basketball. A lot of states used to have a lot of strange rules such as 6-on-6, no crossing the half court line, no dribbling, etc. With more and more girls (and their families) dreaming of scholarships and the WNBA, that could never happen again. Thirty years ago, there were virtually no athletic scholarships in women's sports and virtually no professional women's sports, so nobody cared that Iowa and Illinois had different rules.

As to a national organization--I would love to see one, but not for the purpose of format unification. The purpose should be, in no particular order, publicity, fundraising, educating coaches, and reaching out to underdeveloped areas.

Posted: Thu Aug 11, 2005 6:40 pm
by emactruman
I would like to echo the sentiments of Tegan. If high school unification is possible, a national federation is needed. Furthermore, it can not be just another company, but a sanctioning body. Our situation is similiar to that of of Auto Racing in it's early days, or Monster Truck racing today. I know, this comparision seems ludacris and out-landish to say the least. This is further proven when one considers that some states don't even have an established governing body themselves, like Michigan. See in the early days of racing, there was just the local tracks. When drivers began wanting to travel from track to track most NC tracks maintained a similiar set of rules. Within time Bill France and others began to unify these tracks to promote a goup of the best drivers. In short, this is how NASCAR came about. Anyways, they key is to find ways to get the major players in an open dialouge, or round table style discussion. From there each said should take opinions of the following questions....

1) Are we happy with the current enviornment?

2) If not, what needs to be changed, whether it be a uniform game style, question writing technique, or better coordination between the various companies, coach, and what not?

3) What current thing are in place that can be removed?

4) What concessions are we willing to make to appease possible allies?

5) Can we enact these resolutions logistically and keep them in place after the current regime wanes?