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2019 Carper Award winners: congratulations, Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

Posted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:36 pm
by theMoMA
ACF is pleased to announce that the 2019 Carper Award winners are Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

The ACF membership recognizes Rob for accomplishments that span the quizbowl world. Think of an editing or leadership role in college quizbowl, and Rob has probably done it. While you may know him best as a fearsome player, excellent moderator, prolific editor, and Solomonic forums administrator, I want to highlight a part of Rob's body of work that may be lesser known to a national audience. Today, it is taken for granted that Minnesota exerts an anomalous pull in the quizbowl universe. But this was not always so. There was a time not long ago when there was an unfortunate format called College Bowl, and Minnesota teams were best known for playing it. This state of affairs did not sit well with Rob, and whenever something could be done to change it, he was there to put in the long hours. He edited dozens of events, many of which he created; played and staffed everything he could; and was at the very center of a group of emerging players whose productivity remains, to my knowledge, unmatched. This is no coincidence. Whether it's stepping up to do work that already exists, or creating new projects out of whole cloth, there is no undertaking too big for Rob to consider or too difficult for him to master. I shudder to think what quizbowl would've been like without him.

Starting this year, ACF has empowered a committee of former Carper winners who are also ACF members to select a second winner. The purpose of this expansion is to make sure that people whose integral accomplishments in quizbowl are remote from ACF's current membership don't fall through the cracks.

For its first award winner, the committee selects Kelly McKenzie. Kelly was a talented player who led the University of Kentucky to excellent finishes in the early 2000s. Kelly was also an influential theorist; while you might not know the "McKenzie-style easy part" or the "McKenzie method" by those names, you certainly know the underlying ideas. But Kelly's most lasting achievement was brilliant foresight in creating ACF Fall, which Kelly edited in its first three iterations from 2001-03. Kelly's brainchild has grown up to become one of the hottest dates on the quizbowl calendar, with around 200 teams playing annually across the world. It's also been a proving ground for young players and editors alike; simply put, almost everyone who has played or edited at a high level since 2001 has been through the ringer of ACF Fall. What you may not know, however, is that Fall arrived at a crucial time in quizbowl history. While it may be strange to think about now, it wasn't so long ago that the viability of ACF-style tournaments as a popular format, and the related question of whether to support outdated tournaments like College Bowl, was a live issue. Kelly's insight was that, by creating a rigorous yet difficulty-controlled tournament, ACF could demonstrate that its style of tournaments was not just more fair, but more rewarding and more fun. As the last 18 years have shown, that couldn't have been more right, and for that, ACF recognizes Kelly with the Carper Award.

There will be a short ceremony honoring the winners at ACF Nationals in April. Congrats to Rob and Kelly!

Re: 2019 Carper Award winners: congratulations, Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

Posted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:40 pm
by theMoMA
A follow-up: we're trying to get a hold of Kelly to receive the award, either in person or in the mail. If you have an email address for Kelly, please let me know at Thanks!

Re: 2019 Carper Award winners: congratulations, Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

Posted: Mon Mar 04, 2019 5:26 pm
by Cheynem
I do not know Kelly--seems like a very deserving winner.

I do know Rob very well. You don't need me to tell you about Rob's playing skills or writing/editing skills; those are obvious. Andrew's done a nice summary of his skills in making himself, others, and Minnesota in general into a place of good quizbowl, which basically was done before I arrived on the scene. What I'll just say is that Rob is one of the few "Renaissance people" in quizbowl, somebody who's always interested in learning about everything possible. I remember someone (I think myself) saying that an ideal quizbowler is someone who can intelligently talk about everything from ancient literature to paintings to music to film to football to memes, and Rob can do that. In a time and age when we become somewhat fractured in terms of our interests and likes, I always enjoyed that I could talk about anything with Rob.

Re: 2019 Carper Award winners: congratulations, Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:32 pm
by Mike Bentley
Congrats to both winners! Kelly was before my time, but I've known Rob for years. Playing tournaments Rob's edited is always a delight. He has a special knack for creating enjoyable to hear questions--think of the many action packets, CO trash tournaments, and NSC All-Star games he's worked on. It's even better if you get the privilege of having Rob read his questions to you, as he's one of the top moderators in the game. At the high school level, he's made huge contributions to getting the NSC produced each year. Overall, a great choice for one of this year's Carper winners.

Re: 2019 Carper Award winners: congratulations, Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2019 12:58 pm
by Skepticism and Animal Feed
Kelly McKenzie was already just a legend when I started playing college quizbowl all the way back in 2004, but somebody told me that he popularized the idea of using the bonus prompt to introduce additional clues. E.g., saying "This President signed the Black Tariff. For ten points each, name these things about John Tyler" rather than just "For ten points each, name these things about John Tyler".

I associate Kelly McKenzie with the idea that quizbowl packets don't just test your knowledge, they can also augment your knowledge by teaching you new things.

Re: 2019 Carper Award winners: congratulations, Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:15 pm
Rob is wildly deserving and I'm glad he's being recognized with this award. Few people have had such a positive impact on quiz bowl.

Kelly was also before my time, but it's nice that the University of Kentucky has a history (even if it's one that's disconnected from the current team).

Kelly is (was?) also involved in Scrabble, so I've tried reaching out to them.

Re: 2019 Carper Award winners: congratulations, Rob Carson and Kelly McKenzie!

Posted: Tue Mar 05, 2019 1:51 pm
by ValenciaQBowl
As most of you whippersnappers aren't able to say much about Kelly, I reckon I ought to.

Kelly teamed with Seth Kendall to mostly dominate southeastern quiz bowl from the late 90s till the early 2000s. Though I was long done with my active collegiate career by then, I played them in opens and watched them eviscerate some of my Valencia teams (good ones, too!) at tournaments like Sword Bowl or Moon Pie or things at UF.

When Kelly was in graduate school for math, I played a couple Chicago Opens with him, Seth, and Raj Dhuwalia, including the 2003 iteration where we twice beat a team featuring Andrew Yaphe and Zeke Berdichevsky. Kelly was a strong generalist who took particular pleasure not only in beating me to literature questions, but specifically in beating me to questions on things I had actually read but which he had only studied for quiz bowl. Like a lot of good players, he had a wickedly smart and sarcastic sense of humor, and I enjoyed being on teams with him and Seth and Raj.

As Andrew noted, Kelly was a strong proponent of ACF and is a deserving recipient for his work with them.