March 2, 2009 / 7:57 PM / 10 years ago

UK university quiz champions stripped of crown

LONDON (Reuters) - An Oxford University college which won one of Britain’s toughest television quiz shows was disqualified on Monday after it emerged one member of the team had been ineligible to compete.

Corpus Christi college received universal acclaim after winning the University Challenge quiz last week, with its captain Gail Trimble hailed as Britain’s cleverest student after displaying amazing general knowledge.

But the BBC, which broadcasts the programme, said Corpus Christi had been disqualified because one of its team members should not have competed, as he had left Oxford when some of the recording of the programme took place.

“Students taking part must be registered at their university or college for the duration of the recording of the series,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

“Whilst obviously not intending to, Corpus Christi broke this important rule where other universities and colleges taking part adhered to it. We therefore find ourselves in the regrettable position of having no choice but to disqualify Corpus Christi from the final.”

This year’s University Challenge, a programme popular for nearly 40 years, was closely watched as Trimble generated a cult following with her astonishing knowledge. Her quiz style was described as “intellectual blitzkrieg”.

The 26-year-old Latin scholar answered two-thirds of her team’s questions weeks-long run, with rivals shaking their heads in bafflement as they were defeated by her quick-wittedness.

In the final against the University of Manchester she came from behind to answer a string of esoteric questions on the periodic table and the symmetry of letters of the alphabet, ultimately winning by 275 points to 190.

After Monday’s disqualification, the ineligible player, Sam Kay, apologised for his error. “I hugely regret not confirming my change of status to the University Challenge programme makers before the final rounds,” he said.

“It was never my intention to mislead anyone.”

Manchester were elevated to University Challenge champions. The team said they were “saddened to have been awarded the trophy under such circumstances”.

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