Monday, May 14th, 2007


Second-year history student Cliff Galiher won the “Jeopardy!” College Championship.

Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.

Second-year history student Cliff Galiher won the “Jeopardy!” College Championship.

Bruin beats out brainy competition for title

Cliff Galiher first UCLA student to win ‘Jeopardy!’ College Championship, take home $100,000 prize

Two grueling days of competition, 15 contestants and a giant check later, “Jeopardy!” has a new champion.

Second-year history student Cliff Galiher won the “Jeopardy!” College Championship during Friday’s final College Championship episode, beating out 14 contestants from colleges around the nation to become the first UCLA student to ever be named the college champion.

“To do it for UCLA is fantastic. It’s so much better than being on the regular show, where you’re just representing yourself,” Galiher said. “It’s great to have the entire school behind you.”

To make it even sweeter, the tournament took place across town at USC’s Galen Center.

“That was definitely one of the biggest things weighing on my mind,” Galiher said. “I didn’t want to embarrass the school by coming in third in the first round or something.”

Though Galiher lost in the first round, his high score allowed him to move on to the second round as a wild card. And with the win, the terms were much friendlier than the usually bitter UCLA-USC rivalry.

“It was nice to have a local kid win,” said Maggie Speak, contestant executive for “Jeopardy!”

“The crowd were definitely good sports. Even some USC grads and students came up and congratulated me,” Galiher said.

In addition to school bragging rights, the win netted Galiher a hefty $100,000 prize.

“One of the first things I agreed on with my roommates was to get a big, flat-screen TV for our apartment next year,” Galiher said. “Beyond that, I’d like to trade in my car for something that can survive down here in L.A. I’m also hoping to save most of it for when I’m a starving young filmmaker and I need money for a project.”

Appearing on the show not only paid financial dividends but also fulfilled a lifelong dream.

“I always wanted to get on and be the next Ken Jennings: go on for 50 days, win a million or $2 million,” Galiher said. “I was afraid of walking away with only $5,000 and not being on the show again.”

Winning the tournament involved two strenuous days of competition, including a second day in which the three final contestants filmed all three of their second and final-round episodes.

“You had to head straight into two more rounds, and it was very exhausting. I started to forget the camera was there, but of course the pressure of winning counterbalanced that,” Galiher said. “It fell down to a narrow race.”

In the final round, Galiher defeated freshman Christine Kennedy from Notre Dame and senior Craig Boge from Stanford.

The three competitors answered questions from categories such as “Word Origins,” “I’m From USC” and a Final Jeopardy! question that quoted the Declaration of Independence. Galiher got the answer wrong, but by that point it didn’t matter. He had already locked up the win with his combined two-day score of $36,000.

When he stepped out from behind the console to meet host Alex Trebek and accept his trophy, Galiher was visibly nervous and overwhelmed, a stark contrast from the calm, nonchalant competitor who dominated the final two rounds.

“I got quieter and more intense as the rounds went on,” Galiher said.

Despite some initial hesitance, Galiher eventually embraced the chance to take home the hardware – and the cash – on rival territory.

“At the end of my Final Jeopardy!, I had to write ‘Go Bruins!’ because it was just so perfect that it would happen at USC,” Galiher said. “Looking back, as nervous as I was, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Dr. Shabtaie