National Tournament of Academic Excellence

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The National Tournament of Academic Excellence (NTAE) (formerly known as the Panasonic Academic Challenge [PAC]) is a national high school academic competition run by the Florida Department of Education. The tournament resembles the Florida's own Commissioner's Academic Challenge, which is a type of quiz bowl format. The NTAE had been run in June starting in 1988. Sponsorship from Panasonic ended in 2008 and after 2009 the tournament was not held for several years until was it revived again in 2014.

Match Format[edit]

The format used in the NTAE is unique among all other national tournaments, and is based on the format used for the Commissioner's Academic Challenge, which is Florida's quizbowl state tournament for school districts. This is also the tournament used to select the team that represents Florida at the NTAE.

While most tournaments involve two teams playing in a head-to-head format, the NTAE involves matches of between four and six teams playing against each other in the same competition room. Each team starts with 100 points.

Each match is divided into three untimed periods. The first period consists of 20 questions, each worth five points. The second period consists of 20 questions, each worth ten points, and the final round consists of 25 questions, each worth fifteen points. Each question has a one minute time limit in which teams may answer. Teams answering incorrectly are penalized the point value of the question. A team is eliminated from competition if their point total reaches zero, but this a very rare occurrence.

At the end of each period, each team participates in a written team question which has a variable time limit, and a variable number of questions. The written team question after each of the three periods is worth (respectively) a maximum of ten, twenty, and thirty points. There are no penalties for incorrect answers in this phase of the competition. These written questions are non-competitive, and each team may earn the maximum number of points.

At the end of each match, teams are ranked according to their point totals. A tie-breaker occurs only if a tie results among teams that will be advancing to a future match.

Aside from the written team questions, there are no bonus questions which are prevalent in most other quizbowl formats. There is also the absence of "rebounding" a missed question. That is, once a question is attempted, whether the answer given is correct or incorrect, the question ends, and no other team is given the opportunity to answer.

Adding to the challenge, each team is permitted only one button to indicate they are ready to answer, and to lock out other teams from responding (aka "buzzer"). Most other formats allow each player to have their own buzzer.

Topic and Question Formats[edit]

The questions used in the NTAE are wholly unique among national tournaments. Unlike most other tournaments there are multiple choice and matching questions, some of which can be deceptively difficult. There are also "fill-in-the-blank style questions," as well as free response questions (standard to high school quizbowl).

While topics range across the academic canon, there is an overall de-emphasis of pop culture questions, and a marked increase in the number of mathematics questions (teams are provided calculators). Foreign language is also utilized often, with teams usually choosing from amongst French or Spanish questions (in the past, German and Latin were options, but these have been discontinued).

There are also visual questions displayed on a television monitor, and audio questions played from recordings. While these two question formats can be used for any question category, audio questions are most often used for music and foreign language questions, while video questions are most often used for art questions.

Tournament Format[edit]

The tournament is usually held during the second or third week of June, starting on a Sunday, and ending on a Tuesday. The tournament is usually held at the convention center of the Contemporary Resort Hotel at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Teams are randomly assigned to a first round match (historically, each first round match has either four or five teams in each competition room). Winning teams automatically advance to the semifinals. Teams not winning in the first round are randomly assigned to a consolation match, and compete on Monday. Winners of each consolation match also advance to the semifinals.

There are usually three semifinal matches played on Tuesday morning. The top two teams from each semifinal advance to the championship round, held on Tuesday afternoon.

Coaches are not permitted to challenge the game officials, though players are permitted to do so. Each match generally has at least one judge who is a specialist in each academic area.

Team Qualifications[edit]

An unusual feature of this tournament is that teams do not necessarily qualify based on performance during the past season, as is the case in most other national quizbowl tournaments. The Board of Education (or equivalent body) of each U.S. state and territory is given the power to select a team in any way they see fit. Some teams come from a single school, and are usually the quizbowl champion of that state. In other cases, the Board of Education gives selection power to a committee who chooses an all-star team from among that state's best players. Thus each state or territory can enter only one team, and is referred to at the tournament as (for example) Team Alabama or Team Oklahoma.

Sponsorship & Prizes[edit]

Another unique fixture of this tournament are the resources committed by corporate and government sponsorship. Since its inception, the tournament has been sponsored by the school systems of the Florida counties of Pinellas and Polk, with the Florida Department of Education joining in the tournament's third year. Herff Jones has also been sponsors since the first year of the tournament. Other past corporate sponsors have included Publix Supermarkets and Disney.

From 1992 to 2008, Panasonic was the title sponsor of the event. The Pepsi Bottling Group was also a longtime sponsor.

This corporate sponsorship allows for one of the largest prize packages in high school quizbowl. The top six teams each earn trophies, which are sent to the governors of the respective states or territories. The members of each of the top three teams earn scholarships ($2000, $1000, and $500 per team member, respectively), and earn championship rings. An "all-tournament" team is selected based on geography and individual performance in the first round of competition. These players earn medals and scholarship money.

Past NTAE results[edit]

YEAR CHAMPION RUNNER-UP THIRD PLACE FOURTH PLACE FIFTH PLACE SIXTH PLACE
1988 Maryland Tennessee New York Louisiana Florida Georgia
1989 Maryland Ohio Virginia South Carolina New York Michigan
1990 Kentucky Georgia Maryland Florida Wisconsin New York
1991 South Carolina Virginia Wisconsin Indiana Oklahoma New Jersey
1992 Maryland Kentucky New Jersey Florida South Carolina Georgia
1993 California Maryland South Carolina Kentucky Iowa Oregon
1994 Virginia Wisconsin Kentucky
1995 Florida South Carolina Maryland Pennsylvania
1996 Maryland South Carolina Alabama Oklahoma Pennsylvania Georgia
1997 Texas Maryland Wisconsin unknown Minnesota Pennsylvania
1998 Maryland Florida District of Columbia unknown Illinois unknown
1999 Florida South Carolina Maryland Missouri Tennessee Texas
2000 Maryland Kentucky Missouri Illinois Georgia Alabama
2001 District of Columbia Florida Maryland Vermont Kentucky South Carolina
2002 Maryland Illinois South Carolina Virginia Georgia Texas
2003 Virginia Florida South Carolina Texas Pennsylvania Ohio
2004 Virginia Missouri Illinois District of Columbia Kentucky Colorado
2005 Virginia Maryland Illinois Florida Colorado Wisconsin
2006 Maryland Florida Missouri Pennsylvania Virginia Tennessee
2007 Illinois Missouri Florida California District of Columbia Kentucky
2008 Illinois Florida South Carolina Kentucky Tennessee California
2009 Kentucky Oklahoma Colorado South Carolina Florida Ohio
2014 Florida Pennsylvania Oklahoma Colorado Louisiana Ohio

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