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The Quad: Students to represent UCLA on TV in ‘Capital One College Bowl’

(Courtesy of Greg Gayne/NBC)

By Eva Danesh

Aug. 5, 2021 5:18 p.m.

This post was updated Aug. 8 at 6:47 p.m.

Three UCLA students have the chance to win a share of $1 million in academic scholarships this year – and it is all playing out on the TV screen.

Teams of three from 12 of the nation’s top schools, including Columbia University, University of Michigan and University of Southern California, are participating in a bracketed tournament to answer trivia questions on NBC’s “Capital One College Bowl.”

The UCLA team is comprised of fourth-year political science and Spanish language and culture student Ranhita Bora, fourth-year business economics and linguistics and computer science student Rebecca Zhu and fourth-year English and sociology student Danielle Pigeon.

On the July 6 episode, the UCLA team competed against rival USC. Both schools earned a spot in the quarterfinals, which will continue airing Aug. 10.

This 10-episode season is a revival of the classic homonymous show that aired from 1958 to 1970 and won Emmy and Peabody awards.

The show had a season opener with a reported 2.8 million viewers and is hosted by former NFL player and two-time Super Bowl champion Peyton Manning along with his older brother Cooper Manning.

“(The hosts were) bantering the whole time, it was hilarious,” Bora said. “It was an intense environment because we knew we were all there to compete, but having them as the hosts took it down from a 10 to like a five, which was amazing.”

(Courtesy of Greg Gayne/NBC)
(Courtesy of Greg Gayne/NBC)

Steve Ridgeway, vice president of alternative programming and development at NBC Universal Television and Streaming, said in an emailed statement that bringing the show together was an exciting experience.

“Getting the chance to work with Peyton Manning and top-notch universities across the country like UCLA gave everyone at NBC a reason to do a big 8-Clap!” Ridgeway said in the statement.

For the competing Bruins, being part of the trivia tournament was both exciting and intense.

Zhu said she had competed in quiz bowl competitions in high school. However, like her teammates, she had never been on TV.

“I feel like just the feeling of being on a TV show that I knew would be aired around the country was definitely a bit nerve-wracking,” Zhu said.

At the same time, Zhu said the producers, hosts and fellow contestants created a fun and encouraging environment.

“When we look back at the show and see our own episode, we will … feel really satisfied and proud of how we did no matter the outcome,” Zhu said.

Bora said she is a member of the UCLA Spirit Squad and is accustomed to representing UCLA at the Rose Bowl and other events.

“When I got the call, it was absolutely surreal to realize that I would be able to represent my school in just another way and on a way larger scale. So just tons of emotions and gratitude from me,” Bora said.

(Courtesy of Greg Gayne/NBC)
(Courtesy of Greg Gayne/NBC)

Prior to arriving at the filming location, NBC executives conducted Zoom meetings with the contestants to map out the game.

Because of the pandemic, contestants and crew members also had to take extra precautions during filming.

“I felt really safe on set. Everyone got tested every single day, and most of the day we were in our rooms,” Bora said.

Bora added that even though they were often isolated, NBC executives scheduled daily team bonding to allow the team to create connections.

“I think out of all the teams, we can say we had the best chemistry, and I think we’re awesome being an all-female team too,” Zhu said.

Bora said she is also grateful and humbled to have been chosen to represent the school she had dreamed of attending her whole life.

“(UCLA has) so many brilliant, smart, beautiful, intelligent people, and to be chosen to be on this team to represent the student body and the alumni and all of our faculty and staff … gives me chills still to this day,” Bora said.

Season one of NBC’s “Capital One College Bowl” will continue throughout the summer until one university is crowned the champion.

“We’re excited to award more life-changing scholarships as the tournament continues and can’t wait to present the Capital One College Bowl trophy to the winning team,” Ridgeway said.

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Eva Danesh
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