This article was updated at 12:10 p.m. on Oct. 20 to include information that Chantilly High School has since dropped out of the show and Independence High School in Ashburn, Virginia will take its place on the Oct. 21 episode.
While football players are lacing up their cleats on Friday nights to represent their high schools on the field, their best and brightest peers will be warming up their brains, prepping to go head-to-head with other area schools on the televised quiz show, “It’s Academic.”
The longest-running TV quiz show (as determined by The Guinness Book of World Records) begins its latest season Saturday morning with a team from Rockville’s Thomas S. Wootton High School competing against teams from Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C., and Loudon County High School in Leesburg, Virginia.
Just as much of a tradition as Friday-night football, “It’s Academic” has been a Saturday morning institution since 1961 when the late Mac McGarry began his 50-year reign as quizmaster. There have been some updates since then—Hillary Howard is now the host and you can watch episodes on YouTube—but the format remains the same. Three teams made up of three students compete against each other to buzz in correct answers to trivia, math and science questions.
“It’s Academic” Executive Producer Susan Altman explained in an email to MoCo360 how teams are chosen to compete in the quiz show.
“Schools that write us, requesting to appear on the program are added to a waiting list. They must have the approval of the principal. We require that teams have a coach–usually a teacher, but occasionally a parent has stepped in to fill this role,” she wrote. “We are fine with this, provided the parent-coach has the approval of the school.”
Last season, teams from two Montgomery County schools, Montgomery Blair High School and Sandy Spring Friends School, squared off with a team from McLean High School in Leesburg, Virginia in the championship round.
In the final round, McLean High School beat out the two MoCo schools for first place with 480 points and were awarded $5,000 for their school. Blair’s team reached second place with 400 points and Sandy Spring Friends earned 340 points. Both teams won $2,500 for their schools.
A schedule for the 2023-2024 season of ‘It’s Academic” is available online. More than 80 teams from high schools in MoCo and the Washington, D.C., area will compete. There will be 27 episodes leading up to the playoffs, semifinals and championship matches. Dates for the final quiz rounds have not been announced.
The next schools competing in October on “It’s Academic” are St. John’s College High School in Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C.; Independence High School in Ashburn, Virginia; and Oakton High School in Vienna Virginia. Their episode will air on Oct. 21 on WETA channels.
On Oct. 28, the episode will feature teams from Montgomery Blair High School, Wheaton High School in Silver Spring and Meridian High School in Fall Church, Virginia.
Episodes will air on Saturdays at 10 a.m. on WETA PBS and WETA Metro TV stations. The season premiere featuring Wootton will also be broadcasted at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14 and at 3 p.m. on Oct. 16 on the WETA PBS channel. The WETA Metro channel will broadcast the episode at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Oct. 14, and at 7 p.m. on Oct. 16.
Members of Wootton’s quiz bowl/It’s Academic team did not immediately respond to MoCo360’s email request for comment.
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