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UW College Bowl Champions (1965)

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UW College Bowl Champions (1965)

Donald Zillman, Richard Hoffman, Richard Hays, and Stuart Grover made up the 1965 University of Wisconsin College Bowl team that competed at the national level. They won five straight matches on their way to retiring as undefeated champions!

For their great achievement the four, along with team alternate, Peter Hoff, and their coach, Professor Jerry McNeely, took home an inscribed silver bowl and over $10,500 in scholarship funds for the University, winning $1,500 for each of their first four victories, $3,000 for the fifth and final victory, and another $1,500 as promised by Gimbels-Schusters department stores of Madison and Milwaukee if the team managed to finish the season undefeated.

The team also won a free spring break vacation to New York City for themselves and they were congratulated by the County Board, the Legislature, and the Governor upon their final victory.  UW Chancellor, Robbin Fleming, said he was proud of the team and that their hard work would “help other bright young people receive an education at Wisconsin.”

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An Arduous Selection Process

Team members had to showcase their talent at the Wisconsin Union’s College Bowl competition before being selected for the final team. Around 60 teams, mostly from fraternities, sororities, and dormitories, participated in the contest. The teams battled one another in an elimination tournament until one team remained. That team was not the team that would become the final team however. In fact, from the initial finalist team, only Richard Hoffman was selected.

A complex final selection process allowed each participant to receive an individual score for each match from a board of faculty members and other students. Those who wanted to be a part of the final team were also given the National Culture Test and then the scores from the team competition and the test were averaged to narrow down the pool to the best of the best. The remaining hopefuls were each interviewed by the Jerry McNeely, the coach, and Dave Knox, chairman of the Union Forum Committee before they made the final cuts. The process was long and arduous but in the end what was left was a championship team.

Preparing for the Bowl

The work did not stop there. The team practiced diligently every week, reviewing  questions from past competitions. Peter Hoff brought in graduate students—experts that demanded team members excel in a variety of subject areas.

McNeely emphasized the importance of having a broad base of knowledge, coaching his team to cull facts from their college courses and books they’d read, and avoid rote memorization of random facts from encyclopedias. The team did all this while maintaining exceptional grades. 

The Championship Rounds

Each Sunday during the season, the UW team traveled to New York to compete on national television. The flights were paid for by General Electric but the team opted to take the bus to Chicago and fly coach to New York, so they could afford to bring Peter Hoff.

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Their first match was against Utah State. After falling behind early, the team came back to win by a comfortable margin, 250 to 125. The following week, UW faced Susquehanna University, a small school of around 1,000 students, whom they crushed 305 to 160. Moving on, the team beat Wilson College, 345 to 185. Their fourth victory came against Clarkson College of Technology in a low scoring 250 to 115 match, in which both teams missed several questions. In the fifth and final match, the UW team stood up to the pressure and beat Bethany College 230-100.

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College Bowl History

College Bowl started out as a radio game show in 1953 before moving to television in 1959 where it stayed until 1970. The show inspired spin-offs Alumni Fun, Bible Bowl, and High School Bowl. After seven years without any competitions televised or broadcast over the radio, the show returned in 1977 with radio broadcasts and televised showings of important matches and continued until 2008 when the College Bowl Company suspended the program due to increased costs.

The University of Minnesota is commonly regarded as the most dominant team in College Bowl history, with five championships in the modern College Bowl era as well as a history of winning starting in the 1950s. The UW team won only one other championship in 1986.

Where are they now?

Richard Hoffman achieved high honors as History major and went on to receive a Ph.D. from Yale. His area of focus is Medieval and Early Modern Europe, especially the relationships between environmental, economic, and social factors. He is now a Professor Emeritus at York University in Toronto.

Stuart Grover became the CEO of Collins Group, which works with nonprofits to maximize their fundraising abilities. He is now semi-retired and holds the position of Chairman Emeritus. He has written two books: Capital Campaigns, A Guide for Board Members and Getting the Green: Fundraising Campaigns for Community Colleges. (11/13/2012 Update: Stuart Grover shared with us additional information about his post-UW career, "…I received a Ph.D. in Russian history and taught for a decade at Vanderbilt and Ohio State before going into business. I’ve lived in California, Moscow, USSR, Helsinki, Finland, Nashville, Springfield and Columbus, Ohio, Seattle, Portland, and Tacoma, Washington!")

Peter Hoff earned doctoral degrees in English and Humanities at Stanford University. From 1997-2004 Dr. Hoff served as President of The University of Maine.

Donald Zillman served as the fourth Dean of the Law School from 1991-98, as Interim Provost and Academic Vice President of the University of Maine from 1999-2000, and as Interim President of the University of Maine at Fort Kent in 2001-2002. Professor Zillman is currently on leave from Maine Law. He is serving as interim President of the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Prior to coming to Maine Law, Professor Zillman served on the law faculties at Arizona State University and the University of Utah. 

Jerry McNeely was a Speech professor and wrote for many TV movies and series.

Richard Hays studied political science at the UW and intended on eventually working in the Foreign Service. 

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By Ian O’Connor Giles for UW-Madison Archives.

Film clip from “UW Sights and Sounds of 1964 (1964).”

For more information about this video or UW-Madison history, contact uwarchiv@library.wisc.edu or visit http://archives.library.wisc.edu.

Filed under UW-Madison College Bowl Trivia Student Activities 1960s history US history Wisconsin student life game show quiz show university

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