Jeopardy! auditions draw hundreds

The popular game show held auditions for its College Championship on campus Tuesday.

Katelynne Snyder has tried out for Jeopardy! for the last ten years. Thursday, she didn’t let another chance to get on the game show slip by.

Snyder, a Spanish studies junior, joined hundreds of other students in line at Coffman Union to participate in contestant tryouts for the game show’s 2008 College Championship, to be held at the University of Wisconsin April 11 and 12.

Coming up

2008 JEOPARDY! College Championships
Dates: May 5 to May 16
Network: NBC
Times: Check local listings

The University was selected as one of four on-site audition locations, and all college students were eligible to take the tests online.

“It’s kind of been a dream of mine to be on Jeopardy!” Snyder said. “I wouldn’t miss an opportunity like this.”

Snyder said she didn’t do anything to prepare, but she isn’t a stranger to the process, as she began trying out at age 8 for the show’s kids and teen versions.

After standing in a fairly quickly moving line, Snyder took the 10-question pretest. Upon passing that, she qualified for the next round of the process: a 50-question, sit-down test staged later in the day.

Jeff Lueth, an aerospace engineering sophomore, wasn’t as lucky. He failed the initial pre-test, but participated in the “just-for-fun” version of Jeopardy! in the next room.

“It wasn’t too bad,” he said. “There was one question and I think if I would’ve gotten it right, I could’ve gotten through.”

Along with taking the pre-test, any student could test his or her knowledge in the mock Jeopardy! game, which included music, news and literature trivia presented by Clue Crew members who travel to hold contestant-search events and tape clues from around the world to air on Jeopardy! episodes.

Rita Otto, the college bowl chairwoman for the Minnesota Programs and Activities Council, said Jeopardy! contacted MPAC to set up the event.

“It gets recognition for the campus,” she said. “It’s also something fun for students to do.”

Jeopardy! has secured its place in popular culture because the show “assumes a level of intellectual ability” that is often no longer reflected on daytime television, said John Rash, media expert, and senior vice president and director of media negotiations for the Campbell Mithun advertising agency.

“It is one of the few shows that has dared to be different by daring not to dumb it down,” he said.

Varied intelligence levels are something Clue Crew member Sarah Whitcomb is exposed to as a part of her job. Of the colleges she’s been to, Whitcomb said students at the University are some of the best.

Once, Whitcomb said, a contestant responded “Who is Martha Stewart?” to a clue asking for the name of the first-ever first lady to obtain a graduate degree.

University students were “genuinely smart” and didn’t give outrageously wrong answers, Whitcomb said.

Rash said he believes the show resonates with college students because they have the ability to play along.

“The show itself is kind of a throwback to TV of times past,” he said. “And there is something comforting in that, even for the iPod generation.”

Following the two tests, an interview and a mock round of Jeopardy!, contestant coordinators are left to make a decision as to who will represent the University as one of the 15 college contestants who’ll have a chance to win a $100,000 prize, Whitcomb said.

“It’s a tough competition,” she said. “Thousands of students have been trying out online and at these events this past year. It’s tough to get one of these spots.”

As much of a challenge as it may be, Snyder said she is hopeful about being selected and wasn’t intimidated by the other potential contestants “trying to out-nerd each other in line.”

“I’m competitive and even when I was 8 years old I was a bit of a nerd,” she said. “This forum is perfect for people like me.”