Campus team bowls for knowledge
Juan Villa / The Collegian
Chris Marklund, Nick Blanchard and Tim Ellison and the other members of Fresno State’s College Bowl team placed fourth in the College Bowl Regional Tournament held at Fresno State Saturday.
By Crystal Russ
Winning money on shows like “Jeopardy!,” “Win Ben Stein’s Money” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” has been a mini-career for Fresno State alumnus Ron Trigueiro.
Before he started basking in the game show limelight, he was a member of the Fresno State College Bowl team in 1980, when it was the national champion. “We are the most obscure school to ever win the national championship,” Trigueiro said.
Trigueiro believes it was his College Bowl experience that gave him the skills to face the likes of Regis Philbin and Alex Trebek on syndicated television.
“Regis was very nice and you could tell that he wanted his contestants to win,” Trigueiro said. “Trebek is much more formal. Regis is a lot more fun.”
An interesting fact about “Jeopardy!” is that the show makes you sign a waiver stating that if your episode doesn’t air, then you won’t get paid. In Trigueiro’s case, he received his money about 7 months after his shows taped, he said.
“On the other hand, I got my money three days after “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” aired, which was about 12 days after taping,” Trigueiro said.
Recounting his experience on “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” he laughed about being called “a strange little man” on national television by then co-host Jimmy Kimmel.
Personal anecdotes aside, the fact remains that he cleaned up a tidy sum after appearing on these shows. As a four-day “Jeopardy!” champion in 1988, he won $50,000. His stint on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” earned him another $125,000. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that he is planning to try out for “Wheel of Fortune” when they hold open auditions at the Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore on Trigueiro’s birthday weekend of March 10 and 11.
When he’s not auditioning for game shows, Trigueiro can often be found at his day job, where he acquires new materials for the Fresno County library. But he also enjoys passing the torch of trivia to the next generation, at his alma mater Fresno State.
For the past 20 years, he has been a moderator for the College Bowl and he is Fresno State’s College Bowl Coach.
Fresno State’s team was founded in 1977 and has been to the national championships twice, in 1980 and 1982. The team of eight competes in region 15, which includes all of California, Nevada and Hawaii, in an academic decathlon.
“It is a chance for students to socialize and show off their knowledge while acquiring new knowledge,” Trigueiro said.
The team captain is senior Tim Ellison, who is majoring in classical studies. Ellison has eventual plans to earn a doctoral degree and said that many of the team is exceptionally bright. All but one are in the Smittcamp Honors College, mainly because the team heavily recruits Smittcamp freshmen. The team is all male, which is something that puzzled Ellison.
“Every semester a few girls come to practice,” Ellison said. “I don’t think we’re particularly chauvinistic. By the time we form a varsity team, the women aren’t that interested.”
While there may not be a diversity of sexes, there are many differences in their majors, which is a strength of the team since the questions could be anything from popular culture, math, science or history, Ellison said.
“Our majors go across the board,” Ellison said. “The questions in the tournaments go all over the place, so having students with different areas of expertise really helps us. People just have weird information.”
Ellison said that he does a lot of reading and that many of the team are also fans of “Jeopardy!” Just like on “Jeopardy!,” the buzzer plays a crucial role for College Bowl contestants.
“The oldest players have the most experience and don’t fear the buzzer,” Ellison said. “Freshmen are often not confident of their answer and won’t buzz in. You have to learn to put it out there and if it’s wrong, it’s wrong.”
The goal of the team is simple. “There is a small bit of pride that we get in showing off,” Ellison said. “Plus, maybe we can beat a couple of UCs.”
All tournaments played on campus are held on the third floor of the University Student Union. Students and members of the public are welcome to attend. The team holds try-outs every fall.
Saturday, Fresno State hosted the regional tournament, which is the qualifying round for the nationals.
The team was satisfied with getting to beat one UC, UC San Diego, and finished fourth out of 10 overall in the regional tournament.
The University of Southern California won, which means that they will be one of 15 teams at the national championships. USC is also the host school for the national event this year.
Further information about the College Bowl is available to collegebowl.net.
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