Student To Represent NU In ‘Jeopardy!’ College Tournament

Elise Foley

By Elise Foley The Daily Northwestern

Answer: He is the “Jeopardy!” contestant who has watched game shows on television since a young age, participated in quiz bowls in high school and won every game of Trivial Pursuit he has played against his friends.

Question: Who is Dean Malec, a Weinberg junior who will be participating in the 2007 “Jeopardy!” College Championship this weekend?

Malec, who said he will be fulfilling a lifelong dream when he participates, is one of 15 college students chosen from about 2,500 applicants to participate in the game show tournament, which will be taped at the University of Southern California.

“Jeopardy!” is one of Malec’s two favorite game shows, he said. Malec put his game show knowledge to use when he hosted the Special Olympics’ version of “The Price is Right,” his other favorite, last Wednesday.

“When you’re brought up watching something you just like it by default,” Malec said. “My parents enjoyed it, and I guess I learned to like it because it was on. I just love that kind of stuff.”

Malec was chosen for an in-person audition after scoring well in an online test. He said he auditioned in November, but he did not find out he had been chosen as a contestant until just before Spring Break.

“I had been contacted a couple weeks prior by one of the contestant coordinators, so I thought that was kind of a good omen,” Malec said. “I guess I hadn’t completely given up hope, but I wasn’t really optimistic about it.”

Since finding out he was chosen, he said he has tested himself on past “Jeopardy!” questions.

“It’s kind of hard to study for ‘Jeopardy!,'” Malec said. “There’s such a wide range of information they can ask. If it’s subject matter that you’re not really in tune with it doesn’t matter if it’s easy or hard – you’re not going to get it.”

Malec said he’s been trying to build a wide range of knowledge, but that he mostly wants a chance to meet one of his favorite game show hosts.

“I’m most excited to meet Alex (Trebek) and see if he’s a big diva behind the scenes,” Malec said. “My friends are trying to get me to take a picture with Alex and try to get him to do something ridiculous in the picture.”

Malec’s personality is a big part of why he was chosen as a contestant, said “Jeopardy!” casting executive Maggie Speak.

“People don’t realize that ‘Jeopardy!’ is truly a game,” Speak said. “There’s a lot of hand-eye coordination with getting the buzzer, and you have to have a personality and have fun with it.”

Malec’s skill at the game and his enthusiasm were other factors for his selection, she said.

“Dean is just darling,” Speak said. “He has a great spirit and a lot of energy, and also great intelligence.”

Communication junior Becca Donaldson plans on flying to California to watch her friend compete. She said Malec has the kind of intelligence that is suited for “Jeopardy!”

“He definitely has a mind for this game show-type knowledge,” she said. “I mean, he has all the numbers on ‘The Price Is Right’ wheel memorized – in order.”

Donaldson said she thought he would do well in the competition.

“He thinks well under pressure, and he’s a natural at this,” Donaldson said.

But Malec said he was just happy to be competing.

“There are prizes involved, but I’m not going there to win money,” Malec said. “I’m going there because it’s fun and I like the competition. If winning brings me back for more episodes, I would like to win.”

The College Championship episodes will air April 30 through May 11.

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]