"Go Bears!", Cal alum 3-game winner highlight Aaron Rodgers' 1st week as Jeopardy! guest host

The Cal Football great and former Celebrity Jeopardy! champ will guest host the quiz show for two weeks

As a Jeopardy! fan, I was absolutely thrilled when the news broke that Aaron Rodgers, a rather unorthodox choice, was going to guest host on Jeopardy!, the popular syndicated quiz show. Since the unfortunate passing of longtime host Alex Trebek to pancreatic cancer, Jeopardy! has been trying out a number of different guest hosts before deciding on a permanent replacement.

My Jeopardy! fandom goes back to watching the show whenever I could for the past 25+ years and actually actively trying to get on the show in the past 10 years. All I have to show thus far are a J! water bottle and two J! pens from the two in-person auditions for the regular show (the first one dated back to 2012 in DC when I did not even have the “interesting” hobby of being a college sports blogger to talk about) as well as an attempt to get on the now-defunct Sports Jeopardy. Additionally, I have been to tapings both in DC (saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar played in Celebrity Jeopardy) and at the show’s regular home in Culver City (the latter had hopefully calmed my nerve if I ever get another interview to be on the show). Over the years, at least five people I knew, two with Cal connections, have gotten on the show. These are in addition to trivia encounters with or against J! contestants, including a win over Brad Rutter.

So here are some of the highlights from Aaron Rodgers’ first five games as the guest host, with the obvious emphasis on the Cal-related moments.

Thanks to the fervent Jeopardy! community online, the daily stats were taken from The Jeopardy! Fan while the historical questions were taken from J-Archive. They are the KenPom of Jeopardy! stats.

Cal Football alum Aaron Rodgers won his episode of Celebrity Jeopardy! back in 2015, beating Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary and astronaut and now-senator Mark Kelly in that outing. It was clearly a bucket list dream for Rodgers to be a (Celebrity) Jeopardy! champ and that has been referenced numerous times over his NFL career in interviews and mock games. You can watch the highlight clip below.

In that episode, the Jeopardy writers had a “5 Bears” category about Cal alum on this episode. Only four of the clues were revealed, sadly.

#7067, aired 2015-05-12 (Aaron Rodgers Celebrity Jeopardy episode)

5 BEARS $800: California governors who are UC Bears: Earl Warren, Pete Wilson & this current one (Jerry Brown, answered by Rodgers)

5 BEARS $3,000 (Daily Double): Steve Wozniak left Cal to co-found this computer company but returned in 1981 (IBM, Rodgers answered incorrectly with Apple)

5 BEARS $1600: Scott Adams, the creator of this workplace comic strip, got an MBA from Berkeley (Dilbert, Triple Stumper)

5 BEARS $2000: The class of '39 included this man, who developed a taste for acting at Berkeley (Gregory Peck, Triple Stumper)

Episode 1 (Airdate - Monday, April 5, 2021)

It is probably not a coincidence that Aaron Rodgers’ first show included a recent Cal alum in Brandon Deutsch (“a student from Long Beach, California” and a Class of 2020 Cal graduate who is about to start law school, according to his LinkedIn). Brandon was able to reveal his Cal connection during the midgame interview to get a “Go Bears” out of Rodgers.

It took a while, but Cal Football has captured that key moment to use on its social media, to the approval of our current locker room donor.

Of course, that moment was overshadowed by the viral response of contestant Scott Shewfelt, who used his Final Jeopardy! to question the Green Bay Packers’ NFC Championship decision to kick a field goal rather than to allow Rodgers to go for a game-tying touchdown. Rodgers and the Packers offense never got the ball back again as Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were able to run out the clock and advance to the Super Bowl.

Cal alum Brandon won this game via a “lock game” (clinching the game before Final Jeopardy). You can see perhaps another purposeful FJ question here for Rodgers’ first game.

Daytime TV Personalities: Accepting a Lifetime Achievement Emmy, he said, “Just take… 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are”

The answer was “Fred Rogers”, in case the vieweres forgot about the last name of this week’s guest host.

From The Jeopardy! Fan: Brandon $19,800 Coryat, 27 correct, 4 incorrect, 42.11% in first on buzzer (24/57), 4/5 on rebound attempts (on 8 rebound opportunities).

Brandon had a strong start to his reign as Jeopardy champ. The Cal connection might have allowed him to dominate on the buzzer, with that 42.11% response rate. The “Coryat” score is basically a player’s score in a game without factoring extra score from the Double Jeopardy. In addition to getting the first crack on the plurality of the clues, Brandon also had a solid rebound rate (like he is Leon Powe) in both buzzer rate (5 out of 8 chances) and accuracy (4 out of 5).

Episode 2 (Airdate - Tuesday, April 6, 2021)

Brandon did not quite have a lock game in his 2nd game, but still had a sizable lead going to FJ. He had to get the following clue correct to extend his winning streak.

20th Century American History: A biography of him: “In a sweltering, dimly lit cabin, its window shades closed…his first presidential decisions were made”

The answer was Lyndon B. Johnson, which Brandon correctly answered to avoid losing to the 3rd place player entering FJ who also provided the right question.

From The Jeopardy! Fan: Brandon $18,200 Coryat, 27 correct, 3 incorrect, 47.37% in first on buzzer (27/57), 2/2 on rebound attempts (on 4 rebound opportunities)

It was another dominant performance by the young Brandon on the buzzer. Getting nearly half of the questions on both the opening and rebound chances.

Episode 3 (Airdate - Wednesday, April 7, 2021)

The confluence of a Cal alum hosting the show and a Cal alum winning did not go unnoticed on social media. Below, Rodgers responded to a Tweet from Bay Area-based tennis coach Brad Gilbert (with whom I once shared an Oakland to NYC flight).

Brandon yet again had the lead going into FJ. He had a tougher opponent on the buzzer in this episode from Sebastian, who dominated the buzzer in the Jeopardy round. A $4000 Daily Double answer allowed Brandon to pull ahead in DJ.

All three contestants got the FJ question correct as Brandon became a 3-day champ, in a show hosted by the two-time Big Game champ.

Notorious: In 1897 she was accused of a much lesser crime, shoplifting in Rhode Island

The answer was “Lizzie Borden”.

From The Jeopardy! Fan: Brandon $15,800 Coryat, 18 correct, 4 incorrect, 28.07% in first on buzzer (16/57), 4/5 on rebound attempts (on 6 rebound opportunities)

Episode 4 (Airdate - Thursday, April 8, 2021)

For the first time, Brandon trailed going to FJ, $13,200 to $14,200 to Pasquale Palumbo. Everything hung in the balance in Final Jeopardy.

South America: 2 of the 3 national capitals on the continent whose metro areas have more than 10 million people

Buenos Aires (Argentina) was the easy answer that all three contestants got, but no one answered a second capital correctly. Brandon went with Santiago (Chile) and dropped to $2 for 3rd place. Winner Pasquale picked Sao Paulo, which is not even Brazil’s capital.

The correct answer was two of “Buenos Aires, Bogota, Lima”.

From The Jeopardy! Fan:

Brandon $7,400 Coryat, 14 correct, 2 incorrect, 19.64% in first on buzzer (11/56), 3/3 on rebound attempts (on 6 rebound opportunities)

Brandon Deutsch, career statistics:
89 correct, 14 incorrect (86.4% correct rate)
13/15 on rebound attempts (on 24 rebound opportunities)
34.36% in first on buzzer (78/227)
6/6 on Daily Doubles (Net Earned: $18,900)
3/4 in Final Jeopardy
Average Coryat: $15,300

A solid showing by Brandon this week, but without winning 5-games, he will not make the tournament of champions. Brandon does take home $70,026 + $1,000 for his four games on Jeopardy! and put together a solid performance for the Cal community to be proud of (Cal is probably already calling him about donations).

Episode 5 (Airdate - Friday, April 9, 2021)

Pasquale’s reign lasted only one game as Dennis won this episode to close out the week.

American Literature: One edition of this 1930s novella shows a farm within the silhouette of a rabbit

The answer is “Of Mice and Men”, written by Stanford drop-out John Steinbeck.

My thoughts on Aaron Rodgers as a host through the first week

The key stat for Rodgers as a host for me was the following:

Unplayed clues for the week:
J! Round: None!
DJ! Round: FUNNY TV SONGS $400 (from Thursday’s show)
Total Left On Board: $400

I do not think I am revealing any deep secret here that the main thing that the Jeopardy! producers want out of potential contestants at in-person interviews is to maintain a good pace of play during the mock game (one should also not unconsciously move back 5 feet from the spot like I had done in my more recent chance in 2017). A pet peeve that draws the ire of J! social media is when contestants left clues unrevealed (which is also often correlated with them getting questions wrong or unanswered). As much as it has to do with the contestants, Rodgers making sure that the clue board was cleared in 4 out of the 5 days meant that he was reading the questions at a good clip.

A perk for the guest hosts is that whatever the contestants earned during their shows would be matched by J! to a charity of their choice. For Rodgers’ two weeks, North Valley Community Foundation, a charity that is helping to rebuild communities in Northern California that have recently suffered wildfire disasters, will be getting a donation from Jeopardy! on behalf of Rodgers. $117,725 was raised in the first week.

I thought Aaron Rodgers did a pretty solid job as a guest host. He added some of his own personality into the game without altering the flow. Jeopardy! taping typically lasts about the same amount of time as the actual episode. It does not appear that the show had a lot of dead time with Rodgers at QB. I believe that the social media response to him has also been mostly positive, even from people who do not know him from being a 2x NFL MVP.

What is a bit harder to gauge was Rodgers’ cadence, particularly the consistency of it. For the expert players, mastering that to buzz in at just the right time is the difference between winning a few games to a 5+ game-winning streak (this is also why I doubt we get a super long winning streak during this current season of rotating guest hosts). All of the week 1 episodes were filmed in one day. We shall see if Rodgers’ cadence is the same for week 2. Given his experience calling plays and how important the timing of his audibles are on the football field, I would expect Rodgers to find that consistency.

Aaron Rodgers has already openly stated that he would take the opportunity to be the new permanent host for Jeopardy!. Obviously, he has that crossover appeal to get some non-traditional J! viewers to tune in. I think it is too early to say. We shall see if the new Jeopardy! host will come from the current list of guest hosts that included Jeopardy GOAT Ken Jennings, Katie Couric ( I think she had ruled herself out), Dr. Oz (the pseudo-science pushing doctor had already garnered a petition against signed by numerous past J! contestants), and the upcoming Anderson Cooper, Bill Whitaker, and UCLA alum Mayim Bialik. The internet also wants Levar Burton to have a try.

Cal vs. Stanford (fun with J-Archive)

Jeopardy! does love to repeat questions. Fans and future contestants can have a very good idea of those common answers thanks to J-Archive (you can find out just how many times J! had asked about Berkeley and elements or Stanford and Hoover).

Early on, Stanford had a distinct advantage on Cal for being mentioned on Jeopardy!

1st mention of UC Berkeley:

#2024, aired 1993-05-27

U.S. CITIES $400: This university city on San Francisco Bay was named for an early 18th century Anglican bishop

There were several clues about Stanford before the Berkeley debut. Here are some of them:

#893, aired 1988-06-22

COLLEGES $600: This university was created as a memorial to its founder's son, Leland, Jr.

#941, aired 1988-10-10

SPORTS $100: In 1902, 1st year this bowl game was played, the final score was Michigan 49 Stanford 0

#985, aired 1988-12-09

PRESIDENTIAL COLLEGES $1000: 17 years after getting a degree from this Pac 10 school in Calif., Herbert Hoover became a trustee

#1012, aired 1989-01-17

AMERICAN HISTORY $1000: The golden spike at Promontory Pt., driven by this Calif. gov., is now owned by the u. named for his son

#1019, aired 1989-01-26 (Come on, Jeopardy!, really?)

COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES $400: According to a U.S. News & World Report survey, university presidents rate this western school best

#1308, aired 1990-04-18

COLLEGE NICKNAMES $600: Stanford's singular nickname comes not from a bird or religious rank but from this red color

#1785, aired 1992-05-08

COLLEGE SPORTS $200: In 1978 John McEnroe won the NCAA tennis singles title while attending this school near Palo Alto, Calif.

The number of questions about both schools has become significantly more even in the past decade. There are also some not-so-subtle signs that someone in the J! clue writing team has a Cal allegiance, given the phrasing of several clues.

#6748, aired 2014-01-08 (The blog in question was NOT California Golden Blogs, unfortunately)

MASCOTS $1000: A Berkeley blog likened Stanford's unofficial mascot, one of these, to a "constipated squid struggling with dinner"

#7011, aired 2015-02-23

17-LETTER WORDS $1200: UC Berkeley students range across areas of learning with the major called ISF, this kind of "studies field" (Interdisciplinary)

#7172, aired 2015-11-17

GREAT FOOTBALL PLAYS $200: "The band is out on the field!" in 1982 as California beat this rival with "The Play"

#7178, aired 2015-11-25

ASK THE NEAREST HIPPIE $1000: Did you really witness the birth of this rhyming movement at an anti-war rally at UC Berkeley in 1965? (Flower Power)

#7229, aired 2016-02-04 (College Tournament, answered by Stanford student Gus Woythaler)

ELEMENTAL SYMBOLS $4,000 (Daily Double): It was discovered way out West: Bk

#7229, aired 2016-02-04 (College Tournament, answered by Stanford student Gus Woythaler)

ELEMENTAL SYMBOLS $800: It was discovered way out West: Cf

#7322, aired 2016-06-14

WHERE'S THAT STATE SCHOOL? $200: This University of California city declared itself nuke-free in 1986

#7410, aired 2016-11-25

THE MAP OF SCIENCE $1600: The USA's oldest national laboratory is the one named for Ernest Lawrence at this university

#7542, aired 2017-05-30

OCCUPATIONS IN THE NEWS $1200: In 1969 the National Guard was unleashed on occupiers of this California university city's People's Park

#7566, aired 2017-07-03

COLLEGES & UNIVERSITIES $600 (Daily Double): Of the 10 University of California campuses, this one in northern California is alphabetically first

#7656, aired 2017-12-18

PHILIP K. DICK $1200: Both PKD & Ursula K. Le Guin were class of 1947 at the same high school in this university city near Oakland

#7710, aired 2018-03-02

STROLLING DOWN THE AVENUE $1000: If you walked down this avenue from Oakland to U.C. Berkeley in the 1960s, you would spot many hippies (Telegraph)

#7741, aired 2018-04-16

FIRST IN YOUR CLASS $1200: Home to the oldest University of California campus, in 2014 it became the first city in the U.S. to approve a soda tax

#7809, aired 2018-07-19

GOD BLESS AMERICIUM $1600: Americium was discovered in 1944 at the National Lab of this school where the first chain reaction was also achieved

#7827, aired 2018-09-25

FUN WITH TEAM NAMES $600: Students at Cal Berkeley refer to teams from this younger U.C. school as "Baby Bears" (UCLA)

#7888, aired 2018-12-19

HIGHER EDUCATION $400: The 1960s antiwar movement that grew to cover the whole nation started at places like this Ca. school founded in 1868

#8083, aired 2019-10-30

COLLEGE TOWNS $400: This city that's home to the oldest University of California campus often ranks as the "most liberal city in America"

#8113, aired 2019-12-11

TAKING A VOWEL OF SILENCE $1000: I: In this type of school, like UC Berkeley's Haas (Business)

#8174, aired 2020-03-05

GET SCHOOLED $1600: This university's informal "Dropout Hall of Fame" includes author Jack London & '60s activist Jerry Rubin

#8282, aired 2020-11-17

EPONYMOUS ELEMENTS $800: Last name of philosopher George, who gave his name to a California city that gave its name to an element

#8325, aired 2021-01-29

THE SPORTSCASTER'S QUOTE $600: Joe Starkey, mid-kickoff return as Cal Berkeley beat this rival: "Oh, the band is out on the field! He's gonna go into the end zone!"

#8369, aired 2021-04-01

SCIENCE & SCIENTISTS $600: The element lawrencium & a lab at this California university are named for Nobel Prize winner Ernest Lawrence

For the Stanford questions, you can definitely sense some snark in some of these clues below, unlike the 1989 one mentioned above.

#6852, aired 2014-06-03

WORD PROBLEM PROBLEMS $200: If Tom's tuition costs $43,000 at this school near Palo Alto, how can his parents afford it?

#7269, aired 2016-03-31

THE COLLEGE/ATHLETE $200: John Elway, Kerri Strug & Tiger Woods had fun out west on the Farm

#7336, aired 2016-07-04

SHOW YOUR COLLEGE COLORS $400: This nickname for Stanford refers to one of the school's official colors (not a bird) & is therefore singular

#7567, aired 2017-07-04

COLLEGE SPORTS $800: Shortly after she dominated the 2016 Olympics, she set 2 Stanford pool records at her first home swim meet (Katie Ledecky)

#7605, aired 2017-10-06

SCHOOLED! $400: This MSNBC host has recalled life as one of the only 2 "out" students at Stanford in the early 1990s (Rachel Maddow)

#7586, aired 2017-09-11

REJECTED GREETING CARDS $400: "It's OK, applicant! You didn't want to go to" this Calif. university a 6-mile drive from the Googleplex "anyway"

#7797, aired 2018-07-03 (There are plenty of questions about Stanford and Hoover, this is by far my favorite)

THE ROBBER BARONS $1,000 (Daily Double): 1860s Calif. governor & university founder: it's said he used bribery & intimidation to help amass his fortune

#7971, aired 2019-04-15

THE FIRST WINNER $400: Fielding "Hurry Up" Yost coached Michigan to a 49-0 win over Stanford in the first of these games in 1902 (Rose Bowl)

#8127, aired 2019-12-31

COLLEGE ENDOWMENTS $2,200 (Daily Double): With more than $27 billion, this California school is the best-endowed non-Ivy League private university

#8196, aired 2020-04-06

E-COLLEGE-Y $400: In 2019 this Cardinal school won the Pac-12 division of the EPA's University Challenge with 160 million kWh of green power

Finally, let’s conclude with two easy Cal clues that have been asked in FJ!

Cal clues as Final Jeopardy!

#6470, aired 2012-11-02

COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAM NICKNAMES: The team known as these since 1895 plays its home games on top of the Hayward Seismic Fault

#5774, aired 2009-10-22

U.S. SCIENCE CITIES: This California city has the honor of being the only one in the U.S. to have an element named for it

Check back next week to see if we have more Cal-related moments from Aaron Rodgers as well as more past Cal-related questions on Jeopardy!