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UTC hosts Dennis Haskins Open quizbowl competition

Which chartered student association affiliated with the University has beaten two Ivy League schools in rounds of quizbowl, an academic competition pitting teams of four players against each other? Answer: The UTC Academic Trivia Association (A.T.A.).

What exactly is quizbowl? Answer: players answer questions in these academic areas: literature, science, history, geography, math, fine arts, philosophy/religion/myth, and a bit of pop culture. Lockout buzzer systems feature a separate buzzer for each player. Each round has twenty tossup questions, with up to twenty more bonus questions. When the moderator reads the tossup, the first player to buzz in with the correct answer gets their team ten points, plus a bonus question worth thirty more possible points.

For ten years, Charlie Steinhice, Coordinating Analyst in Health Informatics at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, has framed the questions as editor-in-chief and served as tournament director for two high school events the UTC Academic Trivia Association hosts annually: the Dennis Haskins open each spring, and a fall quizbowl event. On Saturday, March 3, Steinhice says the 10th Annual Dennis Haskins Open Quizbowl will be a full day. Registration begins at 9 a.m., competition begins at 10 a.m., and playoffs could continue until 8 p.m., depending upon the number of teams who participate.

“Many of the tournament officials will be current or former UTC A.T.A. players, while others will be veterans of our collegiate tournaments who drive here from out of town to volunteer their time,” Steinhice said.

A.T.A. fields a team that competes in intercollegiate competitions in both academic quizbowl and "trash" tournaments. Trash tournaments follow the same format, but the material is all on pop culture, Steinhice explains. Tournaments are hosted at UTC, and in each of the past six academic years, UTC has hosted more tournaments than any other university in the country. Although local junior varsity participation has been slowly growing, Steinhice wants to see more involvement by Chattanooga schools grades 7-10

“One frustration we've had is that for all our success, we haven't had much participation from local high schools,” Steinhice said. “Several schools have come once or twice, but compared to the surrounding area there don't seem to be as many established quizbowl teams at schools in Southeast Tennessee. In fact, we've consistently drawn more teams to our tournaments from Knoxville than from Chattanooga.”

In 2006, teams from McCallie, Notre Dame, and Ooltewah appeared at one or both of the tournaments, still fewer than the six North Georgia participating teams: Ringgold, Ridgeland, Dalton, Northwest Whitfield, Southwest Whitfield, and Murray County.

In its first year, eight teams participated in the Dennis Haskins Open. The event has grown to an average of 33 teams in the past six years. In the first nine years, the Dennis Haskins Open has featured 228 teams from 62 different schools. While 43 of those schools have been from Tennessee, nine schools from Georgia, five from Alabama, two from Mississippi, and one each from Kentucky, South Carolina, and Michigan participated.

David Moore, an A.T.A. charter member, suggested naming the tournament for Dennis Haskins because he was the logical connection between UTC, his alma mater, and high school, as Principal Richard Belding on "Saved by the Bell."

“Ever since we sent Dennis a message about it, he has been an enthusiastic supporter and sends autographed photos to accompany the trophies for the winning teams and the all-star players,” Steinhice said. “Dennis would want me to add that his high school alma mater, Notre Dame, finished third last year in their Haskins debut.”

The highest ranking UTC A.T.A. has attained in an intercollegiate academic tournament is third place, but they still retain bragging rights with the following question: Which two Ivy League teams have lost to UTC in quizbowl competitions? Answer: Penn and Dartmouth. GO MOCS!

February 23, 2007