USD College Bowl team advances to nationals after regional victory For the first time in its 23-year history, The University of South Dakota College Bowl Team has brought home the big silver trophy from the Regional Championship Tournament of College Bowl, held Feb. 16-17 at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.
The win advances USD to the National College Bowl Championship Tournament April 27-29 at California State University, Los Angeles.
The top scorer of the five-member USD team is senior computer science major Eric Newhouse of Vermillion, son of Genny Newhouse of Sioux City, IA, and Mike Newhouse of South Sioux City, NE. Team captain is Paul Richardson of Vermillion, a third-year law student and six-year veteran of the team.
Other members include freshman anthropology major Nolan Johnson, son of Lance and Betsy Johnson of Alcester, and the senior brother duo of George and Mike Kruse, the former a philosophy major and the latter a biology, philosophy and French major. The Kruses are sons of Danny and Margaret Kruse of Sioux Falls.
"These five guys are the cream of the crop of our annual campus-wide tournament held last fall," said Rick Haught, Coyote Student Center director and the team's coach. "This year, 64 players and alternates, totaling 16 teams, competed at the end of October here at USD. This team consists of the best and brightest individuals selected from that competition," he said.
Dubbed "the varsity sport of the mind," College Bowl is organized on three levels. Each school's campus program features a tournament open to all students, the best of which are selected to form a team to compete in the regional tournament, and hopefully, the nationals.
Each team consists of four players and an alternate, with a limit of one graduate student. Fifteen regional champions and a 16th wild-card team compete for the national championship tournament.
USD prevailed in February by outwitting its regional competitors, which included St. Thomas, three-time national champion University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of Minnesota, Crookston; Macalester College, St. Paul, MN; Coe College, Cedar Rapids, IA; Buena Vista University, Storm Lake, IA; and North Dakota State University, Fargo.
The win over Minnesota in the regional tournament was a bit like the story of "The Mouse That Roared." Teams from larger schools tend to spend much more time and energy preparing, according to Richardson.
"I think they were very surprised at their loss, they pretty well thought they had it wrapped up," Richardson said. "Usually Minnesota or Iowa win it, they treat it very serious and practice all the time. They treat it more as a varsity sport, whereas we're more amateurs at the thing. Our team members treat it more as a hobby or a club sport and pretty much throw it together at the last minute whereas the larger schools work at it pretty much year around."
To continue successfully at the national level in April, the individual and collective team play will have to be razor sharp. There's more to winning than practice and good memory, Haught notes. It's raw talent and something more akin to The Force.
"At the national tournament, USD will be among an elite group of mostly larger colleges and universities, including defending champions University of Michigan," Haught said. "At the campus level when we do our tournaments here at USD, the people who know the most will win the tournament.
"The difference at the regional level, and more so at the national level," he continued, "is that you can fairly well assume that most teams know pretty much everything being asked, so at that point, the edge is given to the team that cannot only be fastest, but almost has an unnatural sense of intuition and can anticipate what's coming with the very first words of the questions."
Haught and Brent Froberg, retired professor of classics at USD, are currently grilling the team in weekly practices for the national tournament. The duo brings a combined total of 60 years of college bowl experience to the effort.
Haught began participating in college bowl as a freshman in college and has been coach of the USD team since he arrived at USD campus five years ago. Froberg, a former Latin and Greek professor, taught at USD for 26 years and is a "college bowl emeritus" in his 40th year.
"I'm very pleased, in fact we all are, that we won the regional tourney, but one of the things that I particularly admire about this team is that we don't rest on our laurels," Froberg said. "They've taken it calmly but with great pleasure and we're working very, very hard in the great hope that we can really make a mark in the national finals.
"I don't think there's any reason that we can't think about winning this whole thing and we're going to prepare with that in mind," he added. "There's not an ounce of arrogance in the group, they're very laid back and they've been a joy to work with."
Richardson notes that while the mood is high going into the nationals, the attitude of the team and its advisors is one of confidence, but not cockiness.
"We're excited and we expect to do well at the nationals and we're interested to see how the other schools fare, and at what level they play," he said. "I think the teams at the national tournament will be surprised to see who is representing this region and may adjust their expectations accordingly, at their own peril."