Syracuse University students look forward to scholarship money on NBC’s ‘Capital One College Bowl’

Syracuse University students look forward to scholarship money on NBC’s ‘Capital One College Bowl’


While eating a casual meal at a Mexican restaurant outside Atlanta, four current students from Syracuse University who consider themselves experts in trivia—Sanjeev Obalori ’24, Zoe McCreary 23, Emma Lampaso’ 24 and Adam Shulman 25—gathered at a table in early June, about Embark on a potentially life-changing mission.

These four strangers—only McCreary and Lambasso who knew each other prior to meeting—are assigned the unenviable task of developing team chemistry, forging strong bonds, learning to trust each other and getting to know each other on a personal level as the quartet prepares for a potentially course-changing competition. Life: Season Two of NBC’s Capital One College Bowl.

At stake is a chance to win the majority of $1 million in scholarship money and prove their knowledge of random facts to a national television audience.

At its premiere Friday, September 9, the College Bowl hosts Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning and his brother, Cooper, and pits teams of college and college students against each other in a battle of minds. Each student receives tuition assistance to participate.

Uppaluri, McCreary, Lambiaso, and Schulman (substitute) all swear to secrecy regarding how well their team did in the “College Bowl,” but you can catch up along with the Syracuse University team when the first episode airs Friday, September 16 at 8 p.m. ET Eastern.

Syracuse University students standing on the set of the NBC's College Bowl.

Students Zoë McCreary, Sanjeev Uppaluri and Emma Lambiaso pose with Cooper Manning and Peyton Manning on the set of NBC’s “Capital One College Bowl.” (Photo courtesy of Steve Swisher/NBC)

“It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There was a lot of pressure, but I always found I did really well under pressure, especially because I’ve been in quiz competitions for so many years,” says Obalori, a political scientist at Maxwell School who founded the Syracuse University Bowl Team competition in January 2022.

Syracuse University College of the Sultanate

(Photo courtesy of Steve Swisher/NBC)

Featuring a variety of general topics, students must work in teams to test their knowledge in a five-round tournament. The top two schools advance to the final round, where they compete to win the College Bowl and, most importantly, that scholarship money.

All contenders receive some tuition assistance—Syracuse participants receive at least $5,000 in scholarship assistance—with winners receiving an even bigger prize: the majority of $1 million in scholarship money.

“I’ve always been a simple person with a lot of random knowledge gathering in the back of my head. I had watched ‘College Bowl’ before going to the show, but it was a little weird to hear Peyton Manning say ‘Syracuse Zoë’ when he called me to get Answer. Then it’s settled, I’m actually playing the game, not just watching it,” says McCreary, who studies photography and art history.

Knowing the Orange team would need to work collaboratively if it was to be successful, and this first team dinner was crucial to developing the team’s bond and cultivating the camaraderie needed for the “College Bowl”.

Teammates took turns discussing where they came from, their campus majors and interests—both in and out of the classroom—but they acknowledged that the biggest unifying factor was their love for Syracuse University.

“We spent the first few days trying to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses while getting to know each other better. Being there, going through this together was a great bonding experience, and what brought us even closer was the school spirit. We have a lot of pride in Syracuse, and we wanted “To attend and make our university proud.” “I was really proud of our team,” says Lambasso, a magazine, news, and digital journalism specialist at Newhouse School.

Each member brings a different strength to the team. Obalori considers himself a trivia specialist who specializes in geography. McCreary excels at knowing the history of cinema and art, while Lambiaso is well versed in music, pop culture, and “random facts that stick in my head”.

Syracuse College Ball Team with Otto

Left: McCreary, Obalori and Lambaso pose with Otto on the set of NBC’s “Capital One College Bowl.” (Photo courtesy of Steve Swisher/NBC)

To prepare for the competition, the Syracuse team spent hours watching “Jeopardy!” Ancient rings, bell practice and correct answer to a wide range of topics.

“It helped us see the strengths and weaknesses of our team and showed us what topics we needed to study about more. But even with all our practice, once we started competing, we had absolutely no idea what was coming for us!” McCreary says.

Obalori credits his father, Srini, with making him addicted to trivia when he brought home a calendar filled with random facts when Sanjeev was in primary school.

“I don’t want to limit myself to one category when I know all the categories really matter to me. I have a great curiosity to know. If someone says or mentions something I don’t know, I need to look it up right away. It really bothers me not to know what this is. I had a wish I know everything, but the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t know much,” Obalori says.

While recording, the Syracuse team was surprised by someone who knew a thing or two about competitions and school spirit: Otto, the university’s beloved mascot.

No matter how much scholarship money they earned, every Syracuse contestant said they enjoyed the experience, showing up with a few new friends, and a greater appreciation of what it takes to compete on the national stage.

Besides Syracuse, this season’s College Bowl features teams from:

  • Albany State University
  • Brigham Young University
  • Columbia University (title holder)
  • Duke University
  • University of Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • Morehouse College
  • University of Notre Dame
  • Ohio state community
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Penn State University
  • Spelman College
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • University of Washington



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