Senior Colin Brown represented UR as a contestant on the “Jeopardy!” College Tournament last weekend in Raleigh, N.C.
“Going into the auditions, I really did not have any expectations,” Brown said. “I thought it was impossible to get on the show.”
Brown, who admits he does not watch “Jeopardy!” at school because he doesn’t have a TV at UR, responded to a contestant search last May and was called back for an interview in late July.
“The reason I tried out for the show was because I was going to be a senior.”
“It was my last chance to be on the college tournament,” Brown said. “I really had nothing to lose.”
At the interview, candidates were given a series of 50 questions to answer and were allotted eight seconds for each question. Of the 160 candidates that took the quiz in Cleveland, 14 scored the minimum of 35 questions to advance to the next round. Those who remained played a round of mock “Jeopardy!” with actual buzzer units so that the show’s executives could analyze each participant’s personality.
In September, Brown received a call from Sony executive Bob Ettinger, who offered him a spot in the college tournament. “I did not believe him at first – it was ridiculously exciting,” Brown said.
In the weeks before the taping, Brown did not study because he was unsure of the topics that he would be tested on. “Looking back, I can think of things I could have studied, but at the time I did not want to stress about it,” Brown said. “I just wanted to go there and have fun.”
On the first day of taping, contestants met the show’s host, Alex Trebek, to tape promotional segments for WROC TV and for each contestant’s local station. “Alex is a lot less serious in real life than he is on the show – you see him joking around a lot,” Brown said.
The 15 contestants competed in five quarter-final games.
The winner of each game, along with the four highest-scoring contestants, advanced to the three games of the semi-finals.
In total, 10 episodes were taped in front of four different audiences.
On the day of the taping, all of the contestants were sequestered in a room in order to prevent contestants participating in later episodes from having an unfair advantage.
The producers called them up three at a time to tape the episode.
As of printing, Brown could not reveal many details about the episodes so as to not give away the results. His opponents came from Stanford University and University of Michigan at Dearborn. Several of his friends and family were in the audience.
Every contestant was guaranteed a prize – $5000 for the quarter-finals and $10,000 for the semi-finals. As for the three finalists, third place received $25,000, second place $50,000 and first place received $100,000.
Even so, there was not a sense of competition amongst the contestants. “After the show everyone went out to play pool and have drinks together,” Brown said.
Contestants came from New York University, Boston University, Gonzaga University, Washington University, Princeton University, Stanford University and different colleges in the Raleigh area.
The tournament will air for two weeks starting Nov. 7 on CBS. Brown will appear on the Nov. 12 episode and in the following week, if he advances to the semi-finals and the final.
“It’s hard to fathom how big the experience was,” Brown said.
Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.