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Columbia Captures the First "College Bowl" Trivia Title of a New Era

Friday, September 17, 2021

The legendary College Bowl trophy has come home to Morningside Heights after Columbia won it all on the revived quiz show this summer.

College Bowl originally aired in the 1960s, and this championship marks the second time Columbia has captured the crown. This year’s quick-thinking quiz masters were Tamarah Wallace CC’22, Shomik Ghose SEAS’23 and Jake Fisher SEAS’22, along with alternate Addis Boyd SEAS’22. The trio defeated the University of Southern California (USC) in a neck-and-neck throwdown that aired on September 7 on NBC.

 Jake Fisher SEAS'22, Shomik Ghose SEAS'23 and Tamarah Wallace CC'22.

A fearsome threesome, from left: Jake Fisher SEAS'22, Shomik Ghose SEAS'23 and Tamarah Wallace CC'22.

Barbara Alper

Wallace, Ghose and Fisher were all smiles following the win, which capped a series of nail-biting episodes pitting 12 schools against each other in bracketed competition. The Lions defeated Morehouse College in the qualifying round, and then the University of Tennessee and Auburn University in the quarter- and semi-finals. Their face-off against USC was billed as “the clash of the coasts.”

“Even when under pressure, a Columbia Lion roars,” Dean James J. Valentini said in a video cheer — and roar they did. After a close game through the early rounds, the Lions answered 15 questions correctly in the final “two-minute drill” to inch past the Trojans 790–775. Fisher shouldered the massive trophy as the host, NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, handed each team member a certificate for a $125,000 scholarship. “I’m in shock. This has been such a learning experience,” Wallace said with a laugh. “I want to go to law school, so this is going to help!”

We caught up with Wallace a few weeks after the win to ask how she got hooked on trivia and what it felt like to capture the collegiate trivia title.

What led you to try out for the team?

I don’t have much experience with trivia — I just watched a lot of Jeopardy! growing up. But I was captain of my National Honor Society club’s Brain Brawl team in high school. So when a casting director reached out to me on Instagram, I thought it would be fun and decided to go along with it!

How did it feel to represent the College and Columbia on a national stage?

It felt great to represent a school where first-generation Black women are in the minority.

Dean James J. Valentini and Wallace

Dean James J. Valentini and Wallace.

Barbara Alper

What was your mindset heading into the two-minute drill? It must be intense to have those questions fired at you one right after the other!

Shomik had just said, “Two minutes, $100,000,” so I was feeling extremely nervous. After we had won, we couldn’t believe it, and the crew actually had to refilm the ending because we were so shocked that we didn’t speak coherently the first time.

I have to think that everyone at the College cheered when the team opted for “Liberal Arts” as its final category. Which Core Curriculum experience do you think helped the most in prepping?

There was actually a question about The Last Supper in the last two-minute drill, so Art Hum came in handy there!

Did you watch the episodes as they aired this summer? If so, what was that like?

It was always a very anxious experience because I was critical of myself. But it was fun to gauge my friends’ reactions to the questions and to Shomik’s rapping!

What was the most memorable part of the experience — aside from winning?!

My teammates! We had never met before this, but we came together very quickly as a team and had a lot of fun.

When you reflect on your College Bowl experience, what lessons will you carry into this year and beyond?

I learned that it’s OK to put myself out there!

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