BBC investigates University Challenge winners' 'ringer'
Monday 02 March 2009
The BBC has launched an inquiry into whether the team from Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the triumphant finalists in this year's University Challenge, should have been disqualified.
The highbrow BBC2 quiz show, hosted by Jeremy Paxman, has long since ceased to be a competition confined to undergraduates, with PhD students in their early 20s bringing weight and experience to the teams. But now it has emerged that one of the winning foursome had left university altogether when the final was televised, and is working for a firm of accountants.
The revelation has put the BBC in a quandary because if the rules were breached there will be calls for the final to be refought, although the runners up from Manchester University insist that the Corpus Christi team were "deserving and worthy champions".
As the little Oxford College romped to victory, perhaps too much attention was paid to its extraordinary captain, Gail Trimble, the highest scoring contestant in the show's history – because in the final in particular, the young woman now nicknamed "the human Google" had considerable help from her team mates, notably from Sam Kay sitting at the end of the row to her right.
He was the one with the science background, who seized two "starters for 10" when Corpus Christi were trailing, and earned them precious bonus points because he had the entire chemical table mapped out in his head.
But now Mr Kay could cost his former college the competition, as the BBC opens an inquiry into whether he should have been taking part at all. Although he introduced himself at the start by saying: "I'm Sam Kay from Frimley in Surrey, and I'm studying chemistry"– he had in fact graduated last June and works for the accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers. He was a student in the early stages of the competition, looking for funding for a PhD, but failed to get it.
In a statement, the BBC said: "We understand the allegations made and are taking the issue seriously. However we need time to investigate fully, so we will do so and report our findings early next week."
If the rules have been broken, the BBC will face a difficult decision about what to do next. In theory, any match in which Mr Kay competed after graduation could be declared invalid and be restaged.
But the Manchester team, who lost to Corpus Christi in a closely fought final, made it plain yesterday that they would prefer to let the matter rest. Their team captain, Matthew Yeo, said: "The University of Manchester University Challenge team has no desire to convene a repeat of the final.
"We are firmly of the opinion that the best team won on the day and Corpus Christi College are deserving and worthy champions."
Trimble answers marriage question
Gail Trimble, the winning team's captain, is to marry. Tom West, a trainee accountant, proposed during a Valentine's Day weekend in Paris, The Sunday Times reported. Since University Challenge turned her into an overnight star, Ms Trimble, 26, has turned down an offer to pose for a lads' mag.
Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants
Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards
TV ReviewThe intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron
Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days
Oscar voter speaks outfilm
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Liam Gallagher brands Kanye West 'utter s**t' during BRIT Awards performance
- 2 Isis burns thousands of books and rare manuscripts from Mosul's libraries
- 3 People who sleep more than eight hours are more likely to have a stroke, research shows
- 4 Kanye West climbs on table at Nando's to crowd chants of 'Yeezus' before Brit Awards 2015 performance of 'All Day'
- 5 New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Alien 5: Sigourney Weaver will reprise Ripley role in new movie, says director Neill Blomkamp
Madonna falls off stage at Brit Awards – and then nails her performance
Brits 2015: Pharrell Williams only non-white winner as music awards follow Oscars 'white wash'
The Reading & Leeds 2015 line-up if it only included bands with female members looks pretty sparse
Wolf Hall finale, review: Simply brilliant TV
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
Aqsa Mahmood branded a 'disgrace' by her parents after claims she recruited three UK girls flying to Middle East
Russia's roadmap for annexing eastern Ukraine 'leaked from Vladimir Putin's office'