Wright State’s Emily Bingham falls in ‘Jeopardy!’ tournament, calls it a memorable journey
By Jim Hannah
February 9, 2016
An exhilarating run in the “Jeopardy! College Championship” came to an end for Wright State University senior Emily Bingham, who fell in the semifinal round but was cheered and warmly embraced by supporters for her performance.
Bingham battled with students from the University of Southern California and Augustana University in the episode that aired Feb. 9. She came in third place, finishing with a score of $9,101 in the round.
Bingham had defeated students from Louisiana State University and Northeastern University in the episode that aired a week earlier, sending her into the semifinals. A national viewing audience estimated at more 17 million people watched her compete during her two-episode run.
About 70 supporters crowded into the party room at Fox & Hound Sports Tavern in Beavercreek on Feb. 9 to support Bingham in the semifinals as part of an event sponsored by the Wright State Alumni Association.
The three semifinal contestants took on “Jeopardy!” categories such as Legend and Truth of Sleepy Hollow, Four Syllable Words, State Capital Attractions, Geek Out, Deal With Recent Music, Religion, History Lesson and Early 21st Century Cinema.
Bingham had her moments, scoring such correct responses as Atlanta, insomnia, intermittent, Vienna, Nanny McPhee, the 95 Theses, calzone and ozone. A turning point came when she tripped up on a Nobel Prize Double Jeopardy question, failing to give the correct response of “neutrinos” and losing $3,500.
Bingham said later that she was hoping the Nobel Prize answer would be about literature, one of her strengths as a literature and marketing major. Her heart sunk when she saw it was science related.
“I don’t know anything about science,” she said.
Bingham had the correct response of “The Metamorphosis” in Final Jeopardy and increased her score to $9,101, but the other two contestants also responded correctly. USC’s Sam Deutsch won the round with a score of $18,201 and will be in the finals.
Hosted by Alex Trebek, “Jeopardy!” features a quiz competition in which contestants are given knowledge clues in the form of answers and must respond with the questions. With 7,000 episodes aired, the daily syndicated version of “Jeopardy!” has won a record 31 Daytime Emmy Awards and was ranked No. 45 on TV Guide’s list of the 60 greatest shows in American television history.
Following the broadcast, Bingham received a standing ovation from the watch-party crowd and was presented with a framed photo of herself and Trebek by Kristin Sobolik, dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
“We are so proud of Emily,” said Sobolik.
Bingham said the cheering section took the sting out of her defeat.
“Having you all support me has made this loss — it’s not even something I worry about,” she said. “Thank you so much for making this journey one I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Bingham, who won a total of $10,000 for her “Jeopardy!” performance, said she went into the contest in a fiercely competitive state of mind but found herself charmed by the kindness and warmth of the other contestants.
“I was so happy for everyone who made it to the finals,” Bingham said. “I made some really great lifelong friends, and it taught me to go into things with more of an open mind and less of a competitive edge. It’s probably the biggest thing I took from this. It’s a life lesson.”
Bingham said she had been bombarded with questions from friends and colleagues, asking her about the outcome and whether she had advanced to the finals.
“It was extremely difficult to maintain a poker face the last week,” she said.
Bingham was valedictorian at Northmont High School. In addition to Quiz Bowl, she was a volunteer at Clubhouse, a program that works with inner-city elementary school kids after school and during the summer.
At Wright State, Bingham is editor of The Fogdog Review, the university’s literary review magazine. She was active in Student Government, serving as director of campus culture, and was secretary of the Dean’s Student Advisory Board in the College of Liberal Arts. She currently works at Wright State’s Center for Urban and Public Affairs and is a marketing intern at the Wright State Alumni Association.
Bingham won a valedictorian scholarship as well as a Top Honors scholarship, which requires her to complete an undergraduate thesis. As a literature and marketing major, she is open to a career in publishing but is also exploring other options.
Bingham’s mother quipped that she hopes her daughter doesn’t get a big head as a result of her “Jeopardy!” appearance.
“It’s been very strange adjusting to people recognizing me.” Bingham said. “I’m trying to stay humble about everything.”
This story originally appeared in the WSU Newsroom.