(July 22)

The revival of the “College Bowl” academic quiz contest, featuring NFL star Peyton Manning and his brother Cooper, is a paean both to an intermittent, 68-year-old national institution and to another almost-as-old institution in the Mannings’ native New Orleans.

The Mannings’ high school, Isidore Newman, was a perennial powerhouse in Varsity Quiz Bowl, televised (usually by the local PBS station) from 1957 to 1991. The Manning brothers were known for enthusiastically supporting fellow students in all competitive endeavors, not just their own sports. And Peyton’s encouragement of academics is well known: He personally endows 45 scholarships at his alma mater, the University of Tennessee, and nine scholarships at historically black colleges.

Both the Capital One College Bowl and the Varsity Quiz Bowl are essentially team Jeopardy competitions (minus the “phrase the answer as a question” format), measuring both breadth of random knowledge and what the Varsity Quiz Bowl introduction called “quick recall.” The former “intercollegiate battle of the brains” began in 1953 as an outgrowth of an activity created for soldiers in World War II. In the time since, it has sometimes been on the radio, sometimes on TV, and in the 1980s, it limped along without electronic coverage at all.

To the basic format, only slightly changed from the traditional setup in squad size and scoring rules, the Mannings add a welcome dose of the humor for which both brothers, especially Cooper, are widely known. (OK, it can be corny: After identifying the college nicknames of the University of Georgia as the Bulldogs and Delaware as the Blue Hens, Cooper guesses that the oldest college in Europe, the University of Bologna, is known as the “lunch meats.”)

But with national NBC coverage, this version offers what the untelevised 1985-1986 version could not: The national quarterfinal losers, after advancing merely from a field of 12, each earn $10,000 scholarships. … [The full piece is at this link, and also available at The Washington Examiner magazine]


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