Special Rulings on National Championship Qualification

Occasionally scenarios arise for qualification to NAQT’s national championships that are not covered by the ordinary qualification rules. This page documents NAQT’s rulings on such unusual situations. It will be amended as new situations arise.



  • Generally speaking, tournaments will not be qualifiers if their registration criteria are based on skill or perceived skill in any way such that more skilled teams (or teams perceived as more skilled) are not permitted.
  • Events that are limited based on year in school, “Junior Varsity” events, and so forth are considered selective in this manner.
  • Events that are limited based on school size, type of school (e.g. public schools only), affiliation (e.g. only schools affiliated with a particular religious denomination), geography (e.g. only schools in a specific county), or membership in an established conference or league are not considered selective in this manner.
  • Conversely, tournaments designed for, or limited to, especially skilled teams (e.g. state championships and “nationals prep” tournaments) may still be qualifiers (if they meet all the other relevant criteria).

Byes and forfeit wins

  • Due to imbalanced pools, odd numbers of teams in power-matching systems, or for other reasons, a team may be credited with a forfeit win over a “Bye” team. Forfeit wins may also be credited against teams who registered for a tournament but failed to show up. In these situations and others that NAQT deems similar, the bye or no-show team does not count toward the number of teams in the field used to determine the number of teams who will qualify from that tournament. (It also does not count toward the number of teams for which the host must pay.)
  • The above paragraph does not apply when forfeit wins are issued against teams who arrive late (but eventually do show up), return late from a break, do not return after a break, etc. If a team actually plays any games in a tournament, the team counts toward the number of teams in attendance.

Partial use of non-NAQT questions

  • If a tournament incorporates non-NAQT questions into games that also use NAQT questions (i.e. each game uses both NAQT and non-NAQT questions), or uses NAQT questions for some rounds and non-NAQT questions for some rounds such that an individual team will play both NAQT and non-NAQT questions, NAQT will inquire with the host as to the specific nature of the non-NAQT question use, and a tournament-specific decision will be made based on the relative amounts of each type of question and possibly other factors at NAQT’s discretion.
  • If a tournament has multiple divisions, some using NAQT questions and some not, and the divisions are based on any factor related to skill or perceived skill, then:
    • Only the divisions using NAQT questions will be considered in the field size for invitation purposes.
    • If the “most competitive” division uses NAQT questions, then it and all other divisions using NAQT questions will be considered for national championship qualification. (As usual, all divisions using NAQT questions will be considered when calculating the field size, and invitations will be issued starting with the “most competitive” division.)
    • If the “most competitive” division does not use NAQT questions, then no division from the tournament will be a qualifier for any NAQT national championship.
  • If a tournament has multiple divisions, some using NAQT questions and some not, and the divisions are based on non-skill-related factors, then each division using NAQT questions will be treated as a separate tournament for the purpose of determining national championship invitations. (Divisions using non-NAQT questions will not be qualifiers.)

Ineligible teams

  • For most events, tournament directors may permit teams that do not meet NAQT eligibility rules (middle school, high school, Small [high] School, community college, collegiate). This may be done because of different local norms about eligibility (e.g. in some areas, ninth graders are considered middle schoolers), to achieve a field size that is more conducive to a good schedule, or for any other reason at the tournament director’s discretion. Such teams may not qualify for a national championship, nor are they considered in the field size when NAQT determines how many invitations to issue, but they are considered for the purpose of determining how many teams the host must pay NAQT for.
  • Ineligible teams are never permitted at Sectional Championship Tournaments (including Community College Sectional Championship Tournaments), nor at any NAQT national championship.

State-specific policies

  • NAQT attempts to follow rules specific to state activities or athletics associations that claim jurisdiction over quiz bowl in a way that affects teams’ interactions with NAQT.
  • In particular, this means that members of MSHSAA may not receive wildcard invitations or be standby teams for tournaments held after the Friday of Memorial Day weekend, unless at least one team from the school has already qualified.
  • However, NAQT will not adhere to policies in a way that affects “other teams.” For instance, if Team X is a member of a state association that forbids Team X from playing Team Y (for any reason), NAQT will not disinvite Team Y—the onus is on Team X to follow any necessary rules (e.g. by forfeiting games scheduled against Team Y, though NAQT sincerely hopes this will never be necessary).

Playing a Packet Set Twice

If a school has any players who have previously heard a given packet set (with the same school or another school), that school’s teams cannot ordinarily play any other events using the same packet set. Such an arrangement is permitted if and only if the school requests (and is granted) permission in advance from the second tournament’s director, who must be fully informed of the situation and must inform NAQT of the arrangement. In such a case, none of the players who had previously heard the packet set may attend the second tournament, the school’s teams may not qualify for any NAQT national championship at subsequent events that use the same packet set, and the school’s teams will not be counted in the field size at the subsequent events for the purpose of determining how many teams will qualify for national championships.

For instance, if Central High School sends a team to a tournament using IS #200 on February 1 and Central also wants to attend a tournament on March 1 that uses IS #200, then Central may do so if and only if the March 1 tournament’s director understands that Central previously played a tournament on IS #200 and is okay with it. If the March 1 tournament’s director approves this, Central may play, but no players from the February 1 tournament may attend the March 1 tournament, Central’s team(s) at the March 1 tournament may not qualify for any national championship, and Central’s team(s) at the March 1 tournament will be ignored when determining how many other teams qualify for national championships.

Furthermore, the students involved need not be from the same school. For instance, if John Smith of Central Middle School plays IS #201A in one year and the next year matriculates to Central High School, which wants to attend another tournament on IS #201A, then the next-year tournament’s director must fully understand and approve the situation, and Central High’s team(s) may not qualify for national championships at that tournament. Of course, John may not play the second tournament.

Failure to comply with these rules may result in forfeits being awarded and other sanctions to be determined by NAQT, including but not necessarily limited to the cancellation of national championship invitations.

Throughout the above four paragraphs, the notion of hearing a packet set twice is understood to mean hearing the same or substantially identical questions twice regardless of whether they are in the same literal packet set, but allowing for different portions of a set to be used separately. For instance, if one tournament uses only packets 1–6 of a set and another tournament uses only packets 7–12 of the same set, this policy is not relevant.

This policy is applied analogously for schools with coaches in common, or people who coach at one school and play at another.

“Gaming the system”

NAQT reserves the right to abrogate or modify any of its qualification policies for an individual tournament if it believes that anything is being done in an attempt to “game the system” (a term that NAQT will interpret at its discretion).

Middle School National Championship Tournament

Middle school teams at high school tournaments

If teams of middle schoolers from three or more distinct schools attend a high school tournament, the tournament will be treated as a qualifier to the Middle School National Championship Tournament, with the same qualification rules as usual (and only middle school teams considered for said qualification). Otherwise, such tournaments are not qualifiers to the MSNCT.

Small School National Championship Tournament

Special situations

A winless team is in the top 30% of Small School teams at a tournament, and teams with wins are not.
Because of the policy on ranking teams in skill- or perceived-skill-based divisions, it is possible for a team to finish at the bottom of an upper division, without any wins, but in the top 30% of Small School teams, while there are Small School teams with wins in lower divisions. In this case, NAQT stops assigning qualifiers as soon as a winless team is encountered in the rankings. Therefore, fewer than the usual 30% of teams may qualify.
A team’s only wins are forfeits
SSNCT qualification rules state that a team must win at least one game to be invited to the SSNCT. That win must occur in actual gameplay; forfeit wins (for any reason) are not sufficient.
Varying definitions of “small school”
Some tournaments may assign divisions, issue awards, etc., based on definitions of “small school” that differ from NAQT’s definition of “Small School.” (For instance, the enrollment cutoff may be different.) In such cases, NAQT will do its best to issue SSNCT invitations in accordance with its usual policies, subject to the constraint that no school that does not meet NAQT’s definition of “Small School” will ever be invited to the SSNCT. Hosts are welcome to contact NAQT to ask in advance how their scheme will be interpreted for the sake of issuing SSNCT invitations.

Middle School National Championship Tournament

Typically on Mother's Day weekend, featuring nearly 200 middle schools from across the country.

More About the MSNCT Qualifying Past Winners

High School National Championship Tournament

Our biggest tournament, on Memorial Day weekend with over 350 high schools of all sizes.

More About the HSNCT Qualifying Past Winners

Small School National Championship Tournament

For Small High Schools as defined by NAQT, typically in late April.

More About the SSNCT Qualifying Past Winners

Community College Championship Tournament

Usually in late February, featuring 24 community and junior colleges.

More About the CCCT Qualifying Past Winners

Intercollegiate Championship Tournament

In late March or early April, the top college teams gather for the hardest quiz bowl NAQT offers.

More About the ICT Qualifying Past Winners