The University Record, May 7, 1996

Academic games team wins College Bowl Championship

The 1996 College Bowl National Champions gather around their trophies. They are, from left, Ravin Garg, Benoy Chacko, David Frazee, Jay Rhee and Michelle LaLonde.

By Rebecca A. Doyle

The U-M's varsity academic games team placed first this year in a competition held the week before final examinations were to begin for most of the team, beating out 15 other schools to win the College Bowl 1996 National Championship Tournament.

The varsity squad won out over teams from the universities of Virginia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Florida, Southern Illinois and Houston; Princeton, Cornell and Johns Hopkins universities; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Portland Community College; and Western Michigan University (WMU). The WMU team had displaced the U-M in regional competition, but the U-M team drew the wild card this year that allowed them to send four players and an alternate to the College Bowl national championships at Arizona State University.

That they are the first U-M team ever to win a College Bowl national championship is a source of both pride and frustration to Joseph Saul, president of the University Activities Center-sponsored student group. Saul says that academic competitions should get more recognition for their activities, though at the same time he notes that the group's focus is not on achieving fame but on providing an intellectual game program that is of wide interest to as many students as possible in the U-M's diverse community, and to successfully compete with other schools nationwide. Last year, the U-M team took first place in the regional competition and placed third in the nationals.

The U-M not only won the national championship title at the College Bowl games this year, but also took first place at the Pennsylvania Bowl, one of three events that are considered the "Triple Crown" of the academic game circuit, Saul says.

"Our group is one of the largest in the nation," he notes. "We normally have about 30 at our weekly meetings in the basement of the Modern Languages Building."

Another facet of the U-M teams is that they recruit enthusiastically those who are traditionally underrepresented on academic teams. Saul and varsity team captain David Frazee agree that team play is much enhanced by their players with in-depth knowledge of history or current events in other parts of the world as well as deeper knowledge of national issues that affect women and minorities.

"Although this has been traditionally regarded as exclusionary on other campuses, we are not an elitist activity," Saul stresses. "The doors are open."

Frazee says that their membership of 50 encompasses all levels of play. Some are very competitive, he notes, while others participate for the fun of the activity. Everyone who wishes to may participate in tournament play around the country, but the championship games are left to the varsity squad. At times the group has sent as many as eight teams to competitions in different parts of the country during one weekend.

"This is the best team I ever played on," Frazee says. "On that day, we just seemed to meld together. And this is a game of teamwork and cooperation. No matter how good they are, you can't have one person be a 'hot dog' and win as a team. We try to cover all the possible areas, not just send the top scorers to competitions."