UNO professor competes in ‘Jeopardy!’ Professors Tournament


Molly Ashford

Professor Ramón Guerra was one of the contestants in the first-ever Professors Tournament. Photo courtesy of “Jeopardy!”

UNO English professor and trivia enthusiast Dr. Ramón Guerra competed in the first ever “Jeopardy!” Professors Tournament on Thursday, Dec. 9.

The tournament features 15 college and university professors from around the country competing for a $100,000 grand prize and a spot in the 2022 Tournament of Champions.

As a longtime fan of the show, Guerra has played Jeopardy from his couch for decades.

“I probably watched the show since I was nine or 10 years old,” he said. “It always used to come on around 4 or 5 o’clock, at that time that I’d get home from school. It was fun to watch and try to answer as many questions as you can as a little 10-year-old, which wasn’t much.”

Guerra stayed a fan throughout college, often watching with a group of students at UNL’s Student Union. He took the online test a few times — four or five, he estimates — but this summer, he got his first callback.

Throughout early fall, he was called back to complete two Zoom minigames against other hopefuls. By mid-September, Guerra was told that he was chosen to compete in the Professors Tournament.

“I would never have expected it to happen,” he said. “It’s the cliché dream come true.”

The episodes were filmed in late October, but he has been barred from giving any spoilers.

Though stepping onto the stage for the first time is perhaps his most memorable moment, Guerra’s favorite part of the experience was meeting the other contestants. By the time that wardrobe, hair, makeup and promos were finished and the games were starting, the 15 professors had spent enough time together to form a sense of comradery and friendly competition.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “We got to know each other after a while because we were all together on long, long days of filming. Everybody was really interesting and fun, and it created a great spirit amongst us all.”

Guerra said that producers “had everything down to the finest detail” in managing the COVID-19 precautions put in place, which included social distancing, masking and a required series of negative test results before and during taping.

“When everything wrapped up, the producers came out and thanked us, saying that they were thrilled with the whole thing,” he said. “One of the professors stepped up and returned the thanks, just thanking them for promoting professors as people, but also the different kinds of colleges and fields that we represent — it’s a promotion for all the good that higher education does. It was a really heartfelt moment.”

The English department hosted a watch party on Thursday, Dec. 9 with an informal Q&A with Guerra beginning at 5:30 p.m. before the episode aired at 6 p.m. The event was held at the Milo Bail Student Center Ballroom.