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Release: Jan. 30, 2003

UI Students, Staff Help Trivia Team Win Contest

Several University of Iowa students and staff members were on a team that won its third consecutive 2003 Great Midwest Trivia Contest last weekend, one of the most prestigious trivia contests/endurance tests in the country.

The contest, sponsored by Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., brings together more than 50 teams with hundreds of contestants for a 50-hour marathon of questions that lasts from Friday evening to the following Monday morning. Last weekend, organizers asked 351 questions, such as:

a. What was the slogan of the Republican Party in 1928?
b. What was the pen name of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Golker?
c. How many dogs return in the painting “Hunters in the Snow?” (The answers appear below.)

“It’s really a research contest more than it is a trivia contest because they ask questions that most people aren’t going to know off the top of their heads,” said John Brogan, a third-year student in the UI College of Law and team captain. “It’s more of a test of your ability to find information and how fast you can find it.”

Brogan’s team, called “The Federal Reserve Bank of Kaukauna: Lowering Our Interest Five Points at a Time” – named, in part, after the team’s sponsor -- consisted of about 40 people, 15 of them UI students or employees. The team’s nerve center was two rooms in Brogan’s family’s home in Kaukauna, Wis., not far from Appleton. (“My parents conveniently leave the country during the contest,” Brogan said.) The center had seven phone lines, 10 cell phones and 30 computers, most with Internet connections. The questions were asked at five-minute intervals over Lawrence University’s student radio station, which dedicates itself to the contest for the weekend. Teams have three minutes to find the answer in any way possible and phone it in to the trivia masters. Five points are awarded for each correct answer until the final hour, called the Garruda Hour (nobody knows why), when questions become increasingly difficult and point values increase. The final question, called the Super Garruda, is worth 100 points.

Brogan said there was no break from the questions during the 50 hours. Players slept in shifts, and several of Brogan’s friends volunteered to cook throughout the weekend to keep the players well-fed.

“My contention is that if you feed people well and give them the potential to thrive, they will,” he said.

This year’s UI team won the tournament with 1,475 points by answering 82 percent of the questions correctly. The second place team, “Six Feet Under,” finished well behind with 1,335 points. Brogan has captained a team consisting, in part, of UI competitors for seven years; his teams have won the championship five times and been runner-up twice.

Although the competition is serious, the contest is not. The first question is asked at 10:00:37 p.m. on Friday, the last at 11:59:59 p.m. Sunday. Brogan’s team’s various championship trophies over the years have included a Fred Flintstone bank, two mason jars filled with the butts of cigarettes smoked by the trivia masters throughout the tournament, and, this year, a fuzzy bathroom scale that Brogan left in his parent’s basement. Trophy presentation ceremonies are held whenever the winning team shows up to claim it; this year’s was at 3 a.m. on Monday.

The UI participants included students from the UI law school and graduate students in engineering and English, as well as employees from the Academic Technology Department. Students include, from the College of Law: Fiona Ruthven, Kyle Kaiser, Matt Dendinger, Rob Hodgson, Jen Erickson and Elton Wong; English graduate students Abby Metcalf and Patty Brogan; Engineering graduate student Sarah Vigmostad; and Academic Technology employees Denny Crall, Ken Clinkenbeard, Stewart McLain, Kaspar Stromme, Aprille Clarke and Frank Broz.

Also on the team was Rosie Raymond-Sidel, a student at Northwest Junior High and daughter of UI Law professors Mark Sidel and Margaret Raymond.

Answers to trivia questions: a. “A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.” b. Robert Traver. c. 14.

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