Both nationals are way too hard. When even the top teams are only getting 17-18 PPB, it shows just how inaccessible the questions are for the middle of the pack. One assessment that I’ve often seen online and concur with is that the middle parts are too hard. I think it would be a better playing experience for the average PPB to be shifted upward significantly. The average PPB at ACF Nationals 2019 was 13.18. I think that upping this to 16 or 17 would increase bonus involvement significantly. If making the questions more accessible interferes with their ability to differentiate between the top tier of teams, then just make the playoff/superplayoff packets harder.
It’s important for there to be a nationals or a championship or something to look forward to at the culmination of the season, or else there’s no real competitive motivation behind studying and going to regular season tournaments. Right now, due to the difficulty of the questions, the “peak” of the season isn’t very appealing. It doesn’t feel like a goal to look forward to, at least for new players like myself; it’s more of an ordeal that I’m already beginning to dread despite not even having started college quizbowl. I realized how much such a culmination means for my competitive mindset recently due to the COVID-19 outbreak posing a threat to PACE and HSNCT. I basically lost all will to study, because it didn’t feel like I’m working towards a goal. Furthermore, current high school seniors like myself only have college quizbowl to play after this year, which as expounded in this wall of text, is an unsettling environment for many of us.
The question difficulty and the lack of an end-of-season goal are some of the main reasons why there are so many DII one-and-dones. It becomes difficult to be casually involved in quizbowl but still retain a competitive spirit at tournaments. The lack of a goal makes studying feel like a waste of time, but you have to study in order to stand a fighting chance on such difficult questions.
Another reason for the existence of an undergraduate championship is the fact that most top teams are primarily led by graduate students, some of whom have been playing quizbowl since I was a toddler. Competing against players who have a decade of experience is already daunting, but they’re also like 30, which adds a weirdness factor to it all. They’re old enough to be my father. However, I’m not saying that they should be completely shut out from the community--many grad students fill important community roles that they wouldn’t be involved with were they not actively playing. But I think that there needs to be a significant part of the tournament schedule that is undergraduate-only.
With regards to the implementation of this change, there are several options. One of which would be to turn the current DII for ICT into a full undergraduate championship, with the question difficulty being roughly that of the current DI SCT or a bit higher. Alternatively, ICT as a whole could be an undergraduate-only tournament and keep the current DI/DII distinction, with ACF Nationals being the “graduate championship,” open to both undergrads and graduate students. If organizations are (understandably) averse to systematic changes, I would suggest just making the questions easier. Lowering down both ICT and ACF Nationals to what is currently a 3 or 3.5 on the Ophir scale, at least for the preliminary rounds and lower consolation brackets, would accomplish this goal.
Overall, my goal with this post is to draw attention to how many players stop playing after high school due to the difficulty hike and the lack of a real nationals accessible to casual players after they’ve played DII ICT. The regular season sets are already beginning to accommodate a wider audience, with even more undergraduate-only or regs- sets being written than in previous years. EFT in particular has done a good job of being accessible for novices yet challenging for the top tier of players. But it doesn’t matter how easy the transition is into college quizbowl if the overwhelmingly difficult tournaments that are college nationals are what lie at the end of the road. I think that it’s time that nationals became a more feasible goal for the average player rather than accommodating the preferred difficulty of the most elite players.
But if that’s not enough, here are some quotes from current high school seniors:
“Well, I haven’t really looked at college quizbowl. But it is pretty daunting when players have been there for so long making it impossible for new players to succeed. Add in the relative impossible difficulty compared to hs nats to hs regs, and college qb seems like it requires an insane amount of effort for an undergrad student to be competitive with people who have been playing for years and years. I just don’t have that incentive to focus that much time.”
"College players often like to throw in the idea of ‘would this exist in literally any other activity’ when the question about for example letting high schoolers play up is bandied about. Well let's apply the same standard here. Would college basketball have men in their 30s competing against 19 year old college freshmen? Do college swimmers play as long as they keep staying in school? It's time to improve the professionalism of our activity and make college qb normal"
TL;DR: College nats aren’t a fun goal to work towards in the same way that hs nats are.“The high entry barrier into college qb is quite demoralizing for people new to the game (even to medium-to-high level hsers who have spent quite some time playing the game), and introducing a true undergraduate championship would give people outside the uberelite a chance to fight for a title without having to get stomped by people who have played the game for over a decade.”