Academic Competition Federation

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The Academic Competition Federation (ACF) is an organization, founded as the Academic Competition Foundation in 1991, that runs a national championship for collegiate quiz bowl as well as other tournaments.


During the mid-1980s, several schools began to prepare for College Bowl's regional and national tournaments by holding independent invitationals, during which players became unsatisfied with College Bowl's questions. Several scandals soon emerged, in which the 1988 College Bowl Regionals were found to have recycled nearly all of their questions from the 1982 College Bowl Regionals, independent tournaments were threatened with lawsuits from College Bowl, and the 1983 and 1985 College Bowl National Championship Tournaments were cancelled.

In response to these concerns, the University of Maryland and University of Tennessee stopped participating in College Bowl, followed a few years later by the Georgia Institute of Technology and a steadily increasing number schools.

In the fall of 1990, the then-coach of the University of Tennessee team Carol Guthrie joined with a few University of Maryland team members to found the Academic Competition Foundation. In 1991, they held the first ACF Nationals, which was won by the host Tennessee team over Georgia Tech. While departing from College Bowl's structure, the tournament initially included a few elements carried over from College Bowl games. Those elements were later removed. No ACF Nationals tournament was held in 1992, but, beginning in 1993, Regionals and Nationals tournaments were held every year. By 1996, ACF Nationals was attracting 40 teams, but after the 1997 Nationals, Carol Guthrie announced that she and co-founder Jim Dendy were each resigning, and that ACF would go defunct.[1]

In 1996, a new company called National Academic Quiz Tournaments (1996) was formed. NAQT was more organized than ACF in several respects, yet also included College Bowl-like features in their questions. University of Virginia student Andrew Yaphe thus organized the Academic Competition Federation to continue running the Regional and National tournaments along with John Sheahan and David Hamilton. The 1999 Nationals saw the first presentation of the Dr. N. Gordon Carper Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes individuals "for meritorious services in sustaining and enriching collegiate academic competitions."[2]

Following the rise to popularity of NAQT, the decline of College Bowl, and longstanding complaints about the difficulty of ACF, a decision was made in 2001 to focus on the accessibility of Academic Competition Federation tournaments. Despite those efforts, however, only sixteen teams attended ACF Nationals in 2001, and the future of the tournament seemed tenuous. Thus, a third, easier tournament, ACF Fall, was conceived by University of Kentucky player Kelly McKenzie, star player of the University of Kentucky team, and held in November 2001. This three-tournament lineup continues to the present day, with an "ACF Winter" tournament occurring in 2009 and 2010.


An ACF game consists of twenty ten-point tossups with thirty-point bonuses, a format now widely used by various collegiate and high school quiz bowl tournaments.[3]

The ACF finals format is unique in that it involves awarding a tournament title outright to a team which is two or more games ahead in the standings of the second-place team at the end of the tournament proper. If two teams are tied, a one-game winner-take-all final is played. An advantaged final of up to two games is played if the first-place team is exactly one game ahead of the second-place team.[3]

ACF Nationals results[edit]

Year Host Champion Runner-up UG champion DII champion
1991 University of Tennessee Tennessee A Georgia Tech A N/A N/A
1993 University of Maryland Chicago A Maryland N/A N/A
1994 University of Maryland Chicago A Maryland A N/A N/A
1995 University of Tennessee Harvard Georgia Tech A N/A N/A
1996 University of Tennessee Georgia Tech A Maryland A N/A N/A
1997 University of Illinois Virginia A Chicago A N/A N/A
1998 University of Maryland Virginia Harvard A N/A N/A
1999 University of Chicago Chicago A Maryland N/A N/A
2000 University of Maryland Chicago A Illinois N/A N/A
2001 University of Michigan Michigan A Virginia N/A N/A
2002 George Washington University Michigan A Kentucky N/A N/A
2003 Georgia Institute of Technology Berkeley Michigan A N/A N/A
2004 University of Maryland Chicago A Berkeley N/A N/A
2005 Northwestern University Michigan A Chicago A N/A N/A
2006 University of Michigan Texas A&M Michigan N/A N/A
2007 Vanderbilt University Chicago A Brown N/A N/A
2008 Brandeis University Chicago A Brown Minnesota Minnesota
2009 Washington University in St. Louis Chicago A Brown Minnesota A Ike Jose[Note 1]
2010 University of Maryland Stanford Minnesota Minnesota State College[Note 2]
2011 University of Pittsburgh Yale Minnesota Michigan State College[Note 2]
2012 University of Maryland Yale A Virginia A Illinois Haverford College
2013 Columbia University Illinois A Yale Chicago B Illinois B
2014 Columbia University Virginia Yale Yale North Carolina
2015 University of Michigan Penn A Chicago A Stanford B Northwestern
2016 University of Michigan Michigan A Chicago A Maryland A Oklahoma
2017 Columbia University Maryland Michigan Berkeley A MIT B
2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chicago A Penn A Berkeley A Harvard B


  1. ^ The DII champion in 2009 was an individual student from Stow-Munroe Falls High School
  2. ^ a b The DII champion in 2010 and 2011 was a high school.

Carper Award recipients[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Guthrie, Carol (1997-04-17). "Announcement from Carol Guthrie". Usenet: Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  2. ^ NAQT Members Emeriti
  3. ^ a b "Official ACF Rules". Academic Competition Federation. Retrieved July 8, 2014.
  4. ^ "College National Champions List". Retrieved 2012-11-23.

External links[edit]