2021 NSC Qualification Guidelines

Please note that the 2021 NSC has not been scheduled yet due to uncertainty for the health and safety of participants. PACE is currently evaluating the likelihood of an in-person 2021 NSC tournament, as well as the feasibility of the tournament taking place online. PACE cannot guarantee that the 2021 NSC will take place in person, although we will make every effort to do so. Both standard registration and wild card bids for the 2021 NSC will become open on January 1st, 2021.

The biggest change for 2020-21 is PACE will be allowing tournament held online to serve as NSC qualifiers. Please see here for PACE’s guide to hosting an online tournament.

What’s New in 2020-21

-Both standard registration and wild card applications for the 2021 NSC will open on January 1st, 2021.

-Tournaments held online are expressly permitted to become qualifier events for the 2021 NSC, provided they use videoconferencing software. Tournaments held via audio only cannot become a qualifier event for the 2021 NSC.

-The minimum number of guaranteed games to earn regular qualifier status has been increased from 6 to 9 for tossup-only tournaments.

-The minimum number of guaranteed games to earn gold qualifier status has been decreased from 8 to 7 (reverting last year’s increase).

-Adherence to the new PACE honor pledge is required for gold and platinum qualifier status.

-Gold and platinum qualifier events must use a question set that primarily relies on pyramidal tossups and bonuses.

For Tournament Directors

Tournaments posted to the hsquizbowl tournament database should receive an email about qualification within about a week. You can also directly enter your tournament into the system with the form here. You’ll then receive follow-up emails about your qualifier status and asking for stats.

Qualification

A calendar of qualifier events and an index of qualifying teams are maintained on our website.

There are two methods of qualifying for the 2021 NSC:

(1) finishing in a high enough place at a qualifier tournament, or

(2) making a successful application for wild card status.

Multiple teams from the same school may qualify via either method for the NSC. The following information explains both of those methods in detail and supersedes all previous announcements on NSC qualification. 

Each team qualifying from a school must consist of a unique roster of players in order to obtain a separate bid. For instance, if two teams from the same school both finish in the top 10% at the same tournament, then both of those teams will qualify for the NSC (since they would have to have distinct players). Similarly, if a team from “City High School A” consisting of the players A, B, C, and D qualified at the “Fall Invitational Tournament” and if a team from that same school labeled “City High School A” and consisting of the players E, F, G, and H qualified at the “Winter Invitational Tournament”, then City High School would qualify two teams since it did so with two distinct rosters. However, City High School would not qualify a third team for the NSC if a team consisting of players A, E, H, and I qualified at the “Spring Invitational Tournament” since players A and E had already qualified for the NSC.

Teams attending the NSC do not need to use the same composition of players that they used in the tournament(s) at which they qualified. For instance, using the City High School example above, City High School could send the following two teams to the NSC: One consisting of players A, B, E, and F, and one consisting of H, I, J, and K (i.e. teams may add players who did not attend the tournament at which they qualified to their rosters).

If you have any specific questions about how many teams your school has qualified for the NSC, please contact PACE VP of Editing Mike Bentley at mbentleypace@gmail.com.

Qualifier Tournaments

Any tournament can become an NSC qualifier event if it uses head-to-head, two-team buzzer competition, in a format which is largely dependent on academic pyramidal tossups, offers all teams at least six games, is not restricted to what can be considered “novice” / “junior varsity” teams, and is not known to have had major problems in the recent past.

Tournament directors whose events meet the above criteria will be offered qualifier status as soon as PACE becomes aware of their events. Until we hear back from a tournament director, tournaments will be listed as “provisional qualifiers” so long as they meet the above requirements. See below for more information about provisional qualifier tournaments. Tournament directors may opt out of the list of official NSC qualifier tournaments after being contacted by PACE.

Once a tournament is announced as a Regular, Gold, or Platinum qualifier, teams that qualified at that tournament cannot be removed from our list of qualified teams. PACE will remove all references to a given tournament from our site upon request from that event’s tournament director, but PACE will not let teams that have already been announced as qualifying teams lose their status due to such a request.

If you have any questions about your tournament or team qualification, please contact PACE VP of Editing Mike Bentley at mbentleypace@gmail.com.

Regular, Gold, and Platinum Qualifiers

PACE recognizes three levels of qualifier** events: Regular, Gold, and Platinum.

Regular Qualifier Events

PACE will recognize tournaments as regular qualifiers which meet the following criteria:

-uses a two-team head-to-head buzzer competition
-uses a format which is largely dependent on academic pyramidal tossups
-offers all teams a minimum of six games with both tossups and bonuses, or a minimum of nine games with only tossups
-is not restricted to what can be considered “novice” / “junior varsity” teams
-is not known to have had major problems in the recent past
-requires participants to use video conferencing software (i.e. Zoom or Discord) while competing, to the extent that participants have access to the necessary equipment (applies only to online tournaments)

Teams qualify for the 2021 PACE NSC by finishing in the top 10% of the field at any regular qualifier event. Percentages will be rounded up to the nearest whole number. For instance, at an 11 team tournament, two teams will qualify, since the threshold is 1.1, rounded up the nearest whole number; at a 30 team tournament, three teams will qualify, etc. PACE encourages tournament directors to break ties for the last qualifying space in their tournament for the purposes of determining NSC qualification. If such ties aren’t broken at the tournament, we will break ties based on points per game. All teams that finish in the top 10% at one or more regular qualifiers, and which did not already secure a qualifying finish at a Gold or Platinum-designated event, may register for the NSC beginning on November 1, or as soon as they qualify after that date.

Provisional Qualifier Events

As was the case last year, any tournament that meets the requirements described for regular qualifier events above will automatically be listed as a “provisional” qualifier. These tournaments are considered the same as regular NSC qualifiers (i.e. top 10% qualifies) until more details are available. Because we require more information about these tournaments to determine their qualifier status, teams are encouraged to send us results for provisional qualifiers on their own initiative so we can get them into our system. Once we hear back from the tournament director, the tournament stops being a provisional qualifier and can become either a regular, Gold, or Platinum qualifier based on the criteria listed below.

Gold Qualifier Events

PACE will recognize tournaments as Gold qualifiers which meet the following criteria:

-uses a two-team head-to-head buzzer competition
-uses a question set deemed acceptable by the PACE NSC Qualification Committee*
-guarantees all teams a minimum of seven games with both tossups and bonuses
-commits to provide statistics detailing, at minimum, the performance of teams at the event (individual player statistics are encouraged but not required)
-incorporates the honor pledge policy provided by PACE, described below
-is not restricted to what can be considered “novice” / “junior varsity” teams
-is not known to have had major problems in the recent past
-requires participants to use video conferencing software (i.e. Zoom or Discord) while competing, to the extent that participants have access to the necessary equipment (applies only to online tournaments)

Teams that finish in the top 20% of the field at a Gold qualifier may register for the PACE NSC; such teams may register starting on January 1, or as soon as they qualify if they qualify after that date. If a tournament uses divisions, the number of qualifiers is based on the total number of teams at the entire tournament. For a qualifier tournament to be classified as Gold, all of the Gold criteria must be met for all divisions. Teams can only earn an automatic qualification if they compete in the top division of a tournament. The number of automatic qualifiers for such a tournament is the lesser of the number using the formula for all tournaments or 50% of the teams in the top division.

Schools which qualified their team(s) for the 2021 NSC and host a Gold qualifier during the 2020-21 competition year receive a discount on their entry fee for the 2021 NSC (-$10). 

Platinum Qualifier Events

PACE will recognize tournaments as Gold qualifiers which meet the following criteria:

-uses a two-team head-to-head buzzer competition
-uses a varsity-level question set deemed acceptable by the PACE NSC Qualification Committee*
-guarantees all teams a minimum of nine games with both tossups and bonuses
-does not use a single-elimination playoff format
-commits to provide statistics detailing the performance of teams and individuals at the event
-incorporates the honor pledge policy provided by PACE, described below
-is not restricted to what can be considered “novice” / “junior varsity” teams
-is not known to have had major problems in the recent past
-requires participants to use video conferencing software (i.e. Zoom or Discord) while competing, to the extent that participants have access to the necessary equipment (applies only to online tournaments)

Teams that finish in the top 25% of the field at a Platinum qualifier may register for the PACE NSC; such teams may register starting on November 1, or as soon as they qualify if they qualify after that date. If a tournament uses divisions, the number of qualifiers is based on the total number of teams at the entire tournament. For a qualifier tournament to be classified as Platinum, all of the Platinum qualifier criteria must be met for all divisions. Teams can only earn an automatic qualification if they compete in the top division of a tournament. The number of automatic qualifiers for such a tournament is the lesser of the number using the formula for all tournaments or 50% of the teams in the top division.

Schools which are eligible to attend the 2021 NSC and which host a Platinum qualifier event during the 2020–21 competition year receive a discount on their entry fee for the 2021 NSC (-$20).

The NSC Qualification Committee will be led by NSC Tournament Director Casey Bindas (tournament.director@pace-nsc.org). It is not necessary to submit a request separately to confirm a tournament as Gold or Platinum; all qualifying events for the 2021 NSC will also be examined for potential Gold or Platinum status by us.

Tournaments may become NSC qualifiers irrespective of whether they purchase their question set from vendors, use a set by another independent writing team, or write their own questions. PACE does not consider whether or not a tournament is affiliated with another national championship or organization when offering NSC-qualifier status. In the past, many tournaments have allowed teams to qualify both for PACE and for other nationals without any conflict. We expect and encourage this situation to continue.

*PACE considers all pyramidal sets produced by NAQT to be acceptable for qualification purposes. In addition, PACE judges house-written sets or sets from other vendors on a case-by-case basis. Varsity-level sets are defined as a high school question set that is either at or above the difficulty of an NAQT IS set. In general, though, any all-subject, non-novice question set announced on the Quizbowl Resource Center forums will be presumed acceptable for the purposes of NSC qualification unless clear evidence emerges that a set has unusually major problems with appropriate question length, difficulty, factual accuracy, etc. To be clear, it is not necessary to use an NAQT question set for a tournament to become a Gold or Platinum qualifier. 

**For the purposes of this post, a “qualifier” is always an event at which quizbowl can be played. Teams which have become eligible to register for the 2021 NSC are referred to in full as “qualified teams.”

Honor Pledge Policy

PACE understands that the landscape of quizbowl tournaments will be changing significantly in the 2020-21 season. PACE places a high priority on preserving fair and honest competition as many tournaments move online, and meeting that goal begins with fostering a strong sense of integrity upon all participants. For online tournaments that wish to serve as Gold or Platinum qualifiers, PACE requires that tournament directors incorporate the honor pledge written by PACE. If you are following the PACE online tournament guide, we recommend posting the honor pledge in the appropriate #honor-pledge channel before matches begin, then requiring all players and coaches to reply with the message “I, [name], agree to abide by the honor pledge for this tournament.” Alternatively, you may require teams to verbally affirm the honor pledge at the start of each round to their opponents and to the moderator.

State Tournaments

State tournaments without any eligibility restrictions or regional stages feeding into a championship site will be treated as regular tournaments. State tournaments that have their own qualification systems, regional stages feeding into a state-wide event, or other deviations from standard tournament procedure will be handled on a case-by-case basis. PACE will reach out to the directors of state tournaments to clear up any questions about these tournaments. As in past years, PACE does not reserve specific spots in the NSC field for state champions.

Wild Card Bids

Teams that have not qualified for the NSC through the above system can submit a wild card bid starting on January 1st, 2020. Additionally, a school that has qualified its A Team for the NSC can submit a wild card bids for additional teams (B team, C team, etc.) if those additional teams from the same school has not qualified through other means.

To submit a wild card bid, email PACE’s Wild Card Coordinator [TBD] at wildcard@pace-nsc.org with the following: team name, contact information, and a summary of the team’s accomplishments throughout the year.

The PACE Wild Card Committee will then determine whether to grant this team entry into the NSC and return a decision to the team within seven days of receiving the application.

PACE will automatically approve wild card bids from teams which finished highly enough at events that meet our standards for qualifier status, even if those events are not officially listed as such. (Example: If “City High School A” finished in first, second, third, or fourth place at the “City Invitational Tournament,” a 20-team tournament which was run on an NAQT Invitational Series set, offered eight games to all teams, and kept team statistics – within the 20 percent cutoff of a Gold qualifier – their bid would be automatically approved regardless of whether the “City Invitational Tournament” chose to join the official list of qualifier events.) While this has been implicitly true for wild card bids over the past few years, this is now official PACE policy.

Leagues

In general, teams cannot qualify for the PACE NSC through their performance in leagues or local weekday conferences. However, directors of quizbowl leagues should email PACE VP of Editing Mike Bentley at mbentleypace@gmail.com to discuss any special situations regarding organized quizbowl play of those kinds. The Wild Card Committee may consider performance at local leagues in the event that an applying team has a lack of available opportunities to play quizbowl tournaments in their area.

Subject-Specific Competitions

Teams cannot qualify for the PACE NSC through competitions whose questions focus entirely or predominantly on a single academic subject (e.g. National History Bee and Bowl, National Science Bowl). The Wild Card Committee may consider performance at subject-specific academic competitions in the event that an applying team has a lack of available opportunities to play all-subject quizbowl in their area.

Reserving Spots

Once a team qualifies for the NSC and it is later than January 1st, 2021, that team can fill out the registration form. The team’s spot will be guaranteed when PACE receives the $100 deposit from the team.

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If you have any questions about NSC qualification, feel free to contact PACE VP of Editing Mike Bentley at mbentleypace@gmail.com.