ansonberns wrote:Firstly, I think that It's Academic questions in recent years have become more and more quizbowl-ish in that their canon seems to intersect more and more with the pyramidal canon, especially in playoff rounds and later (this seems to be borne out by the fact that we won last year instead of a team like Blake who only does speed). I think this bodes well for converting It's Ac schools to pyramidal. I also think that in Montgomery County the first priority would be getting MABL, the local speed format, onto pyramidal questions (maybe supplied by NAQT? but I don't know if there's any money at all for that).
I'm not even sure it's the questions so much as it is where the incentives are right now. Teachers, parents, and students will start out almost all believing that It's Ac is the one goal they should practice for and prepare for in things like MABL even if they do attend a couple of pyramidal tournaments for "extra practice" on occasion. When all the incentives for everyone at a school to simply do It's Ac and similar speed competitions are counterbalanced only by the knowledge that "pyramidal questions are more fair, fun, and academically rewarding," it will be an uphill challenge to change the other peoples' minds. Keep in mind too that coaches are usually giving up an entire day off to bring teams to a quizbowl tournament. A good way to start addressing this that you can control is to ensure that all quizbowl tournaments hosted in the area are extremely professional and efficiently run.
ansonberns wrote:Also, a significant number of tournaments that I've played over the past few years have been at VCU and UVA, and that amount of driving is definitely a barrier to entry for local teams. Making UMD more of a hub for high school quizbowl (especially since UMD is getting so many players already familiar with the HS game next year) would probably make it easier for new teams to get into pyramidal. I'm not as familiar with the Baltimore area, but getting UMD and maybe Hopkins to run more tournaments would likely be beneficial for there, too. I would certainly be willing to work with you, other people from UMD, and other high schools in the area to work something out.
JHU already seems to run a bunch of HS tournaments. What's the status of teams at GW, American, George Mason, etc? Colleges would be good too, but even better would be using the tournaments that are already being run at various high schools and Georgetown to expand to attract a lot more newer schools. It does sound like it would make sense to get all of the current schools (both college and secondary) on board with something to help plan out a yearly schedule and coordinate outreach, but that will require someone (perhaps yourself!) to take the lead.
It's great that TJ, RM, Blair, GDS, and a few other schools in the area have remained largely committed to pyramidal quizbowl. The side of effect of that, however, is that new schools are going to have a very hard time winning games at tournaments and might not be happy to go 2-8 with wins over D and E teams. Unless there's some major effort to provide competitive opportunities for new teams, it's going to be difficult to retain any teams who do show up (note how the Centennial tournament attracts a critical mass of these newer/less experienced schools; they come back to that). One thing that ought to change is that tournaments in the area need to have robust true novice divisions; a beast frosh-sophomore team or a nationally competitive middle school is NOT the kind of team that should play in these divisions. Of course, this may necessitate a lot of outreach effort to yield even 4-5 new teams at a time for such a division, but such is the way you build up a successful circuit.
ansonberns wrote: If this involves making some sort of organization (a la quizbowl alliances in other states) or maybe just more outreach, I don't know. Does anyone (including people not necessarily from the area) have any thoughts?
There have been many attempts over the years to "do something" with the It's Ac teams but pretty much all of those have broken on the rocky shore of nostalgic, cheesy buzzer speed. Naveed's map is a great place for people to start as would attempts to contact those schools in DC and Prince George's County that don't have a team of any kind and start up a circuit with those. Piecemeal attempts though like simply sending mass-CC'd emails to It's Ac teams contacts are likely not to have much of an effect compared to a carefully planned group effort. Simply creating an alliance in-name-only isn't going to do much (I think that's been tried?). Instead, it's going to take all the major stakeholders coming together to support this kind of project starting basically now if you want to have something (a full-scale mailer and personalized contact campaign, multiple novice-focused tournaments, a good website that speaks to local concerns and teams, etc.) ready to go by fall.