I’ll Take Dream Fulfillment for 100, Alex

February 3, 2012

Watch Greer compete Thursday, Feb. 8, at 7. p.m. on the ABC network's Durham's affiliate WTVD-TV. Watch a sneak preview.


At 7 p.m., Monday Feb. 6, Pratt senior Greer Mackebee and a host of friends will be glued to the 113-inch big screen television in K4 dorm.

Off campus, more than 9 million Americans will also be glued to their sets at the same time.

And even though only Mackebee knows how it will all turn out, he admits that it will nerve-racking to watch himself compete on the annual college student tournament of the immensely popular game show Jeopardy! It’s the show where contestants must provide questions to answers on a host of different topics. Sort of like Trivial Pursuits in reverse.

Mackebee grew up watching the show with his parents in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee, and if someone so young could have a bucket list, he has already checked off one of the key items.

“I have always been such a fan of the show,” Mackebee said. “I competed in Quiz Bowl while in high school, and I spend a lot time on Sporcle.com, a popular trivia site. Being on Jeopardy! has always been a dream of mine.”

The Pratt civil and environmental engineering major will join 14 other college students competing for the $100,000 grand prize. Because the tournament was taped in advance, Mackebee cannot talk about anything relating how he did or reveal any information that may give away any hints about how tournament turned out.

Greer Mackebee and Jeopardy! host Alex TrebekThe event, which is videotaped over a two-day period in Los Angeles, works like this: five groups of three students compete, with the five winners and the four contestants who scored the most points going on to the next round. Those nine are whittled down to final three, who then go head-to-head for the grand prize. Additionally, the student winner gets to compete late in the year in Jeopardy!’s Tournament of Champions.

In the first round, Mackebee represented Duke against students from the University of Indiana and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, whose student was the only other engineering student of the group.

“I know it may be hard to believe, but I don’t remember much of the taping.” Mackebee said. “Each round took about 45 minutes to tape, and between all the cameras and lights, it was like an out-of-body experience. It all happened so fast. It was like a blur.”

The process of getting on the show is a combination of luck, knowledge and personality, Mackebee explained. For this tournament, more 12,000 students applied. The first step was a timed, on-line test. From that pool, the show chose 300 students to screen personally at locations across the country.

“I travelled to Washington, D.C. in May, where they met with a bunch of us,” Mackebee said. “While there, we took written tests and participated in a simulation of the actual game. They also wanted to see what we were like as individuals – like personalities and energy levels.”

From this group, the final 15, and one alternate, were chosen and flown out to Los Angeles two days before the start of play and housed in swank hotels. Mackebee went with his parents and took in some of the iconic sites, such as Griffith Park, which overlooks the valley and is the home of the famous Hollywood sign.

Because of game show scandals of the past, Mackebee said great efforts were made to avoid controversy, For example, lawyers were always on hand representing the show and the contestants to make sure there were no collusions. They also only interacted with host Alex Trebek during taping to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Locally, the show airs at 7 p.m. on the ABC network affiliate WTVD-TV.