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The Collegiate Championship

Kenneth E. Harker (wm5r) on September 26, 2000
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The 1999 Collegiate Championship By Kenneth Harker WM5R
W4AQL Photos
Phil N3NGG operating at Georgia
Tech W4AQL during the 1999
Collegiate Championship, phone.

Many college clubs will get on the air again this November for the annual Collegiate Championship Amateur Radio contest. Here, we can take a look back at the 1999 contest, and a look forward to the premier operating event of the year for college and university ham clubs.

Contesting and college Amateur Radio clubs seem made for each other. Most student hams arrive on campus to live in small dormitory rooms or apartments. If they can afford their own gear, they rarely have locations that allow for much in the way of antennas. Students tend to move frequently, go home for the summers, and spend semesters abroad. All of this conspires to limit the ability of student hams to get on the air.

Fortunately, there are many active college and university Amateur Radio clubs that come to the rescue! Most college clubs manage to find one way or another to get a club station going on campus. The lucky ones can put up rooftop towers, large wire antennas for the low bands, and more. Contesting from these club stations is a great activity that allows students to enjoy focused, high-performance Amateur Radio activity within a busy college schedule. Contesting can bring club members together in a common cause to improve on last year's score, or to beat club rivals.

1999 Results

Stanford University W6YX became the fifth different university club to win the combined category of the Collegiate Championship in the six years in which it has been held! W6YX was most impressive in CW, with one of only two "clean sweeps" made on that mode, and the only QSO total over 1,000. In second place, defending champion Caltech W6UE continues to be a formidable challenger. Caltech has finished in the top three spots for four years in a row. Third place this year went to the University of Arkansas W5YM, up from a sixth-place combined finish in the 1998 contest. W5YM had an outstanding CW effort that helped push them into the top ranks for the first time.

Participation amongst all competitors in the ARRL November Sweepstakes dropped for the second year in a row. Participation by college and university clubs also been falling from an activity peak in 1997. This year, there were only 35 Collegiate Championship entries, compared to 32 for 1998, 50 for 1997, and 44 for 1996. Some contestants felt that improved sunspot numbers mean more hams are interested in DXing than contesting, and others blamed the ARRL rules changes and the controversy surrounding them for the lower turnout amongst college clubs. "I didn't realize you were holding the Collegiate Championship as a separate (from ARRL) event. I thought the ARRL had killed this fun part of the SS by eliminating alumni from participation. This is the reason W6YL (San Jose State Univ.) was inactive this year."

This was the second year that all submitted contest logs underwent significant checking for errors. The mean reduction in score after the log checking was about 10% for CW and 8% for phone. Some schools fared better than others, and some actually moved up in the CW and phone ranks because of their cleaner logs. This did not affect the combined rankings when all was said and done, however. It is unlikely that more rigorous log-checking has contributed to the decline in activity - none of the participating schools in 1998 knew that the logs would be checked so strenuously before the logs had been submitted, and the participation in 1999 is only very slightly better than 1998.

Many schools won their ARRL sections and even divisions in the ARRL November Sweepstakes this year. Had they entered the School Radio Club category, many of these college and university clubs would never receive recognition for outstanding performances that make them competitive with other local, non-college stations. The best performances were by Stanford W6YX and Caltech W6UE in the phone competition; W6YX finished #5 overall in the multi-operator category, and W6UE finished #6 overall! This is the first year that two Collegiate Championship entrants have finished in the Sweepstakes Top Ten! There were some regional battles as well. While not winning their divisions, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee WB9JBF and Michigan State W8SH finished in the third and fifth spot, respectively, in the Central Region in the Phone contest. North Carolina State W4ATC and Georgia Tech W4AQL (conference rivals as well!) finished in the third and fourth spots, respectively, in the Southeast Region, also on phone. These were all fantastic contest efforts!

The Collegiate Championship

N5XU Photos
Robert K5PI and Johanna W5JLP operating
at the University of Texas N5XU during
the 1999 Collegiate Championship, CW.

The Collegiate Championship was started in 1994 largely through the efforts of Robert Barron KA5WSS, a recent alumnus of the University of Texas and active participant in the UT Amateur Radio Club. The idea was pretty simple: have college clubs participate as multi-ops in the most popular of domestic HF contests at the time, the ARRL November Sweepstakes, and compare scores after the results were published in QST. Throw in a few extra rules to encourage clubs to operate from on-campus club stations (and not from a local "super-station") and a rule to compute a "combined" score from the CW and phone scores, and the contest was essentially set. The combined scores were computed with a formula that Robert borrowed from the NCJ North American Sprints; it is based on a points system whereby each CW and phone score is divided by the highest scoring collegiate score for that mode and multiplied by 1000. The overall combined score is the sum of the CW and phone points - with a maximum possible of 2000. This is, incidentally, essentially the same system used in the World Radiosport Team Championship 2000.

The idea was immediately popular with schools, and even received sidebar write-ups in the QST Sweepstakes results in 1994 and 1995. In 1998, a new official entry class was added to the Sweepstakes rules: the School Radio Club category. Many felt the rules for the new category were flawed - they didn't allow college clubs to compete against other, non-college multi-op stations in their own sections, as they had done in the past, and they didn't include rules for a combined score to determine an overall Collegiate Champion. Nonetheless, almost all college clubs that operated in the 1998 Sweepstakes entered the new category. Much to our surprise, the printed results for the 1998 Sweepstakes included high schools in the listing, and listed colleges in a combined score table that was computed by simply adding the phone and CW scores together, much to the dismay of clubs that had performed relatively better on CW.

There was even more controversy over the 1999 Sweepstakes rules. The School Radio Club category rules were modified to explicitly allow high schools into a previously collegiate-only competition, the simple addition of the phone and CW scores to compute a combined score was written into the rules for the first time, and non-students were banned from participating. Almost all of the active college clubs objected to these changes, especially the rule to ban faculty, staff, alumni, and (in many cases) club station trustees from operating. College clubs can thrive with active support from alumni and other "stable" members who can remain involved with the club for more than a four-year undergraduate college experience. These club supporters often provide significant financial support, help clubs survive years of low membership, and elmer young hams through activities like multi-op radio contests. The rule was changed just before the contest to allow faculty and staff to operate, but nevertheless, a majority of college clubs entering the 1999 Sweepstakes did not enter in the School Radio Club category, and the Collegiate Championship was started up again as a separate competition.

What will the rules for the 2000 Sweepstakes School Radio Club category be like, and how will they be received by college clubs? Clearly, the ARRL is very interested in encouraging younger Amateur Radio operators, and views a "School Radio Club" category as something special. The League is concerned that alumni participation will harm this end. It has been suggested that allowing alumni to participate might be like "letting Michael Jordan return to play basketball for UNC." This issue has been debated extensively on the email reflector, with some in favor and some opposed, but the majority seem to feel that the benefits of allowing alumni and students to contest side-by-side outweigh the potential problems. It's unclear if the League's agenda and the concerns of the majority of college clubs can find common ground. To date, neither the Contest Advisory Committee nor any college or university club has been asked to comment on the Sweepstakes rules as they pertain to college and university club efforts.

Clubs Get Busy!

You better believe that many college and university clubs are getting excited about the future of the Collegiate Championship! Many have used the Sweepstakes as a motivation to improve their stations and their operators. The operators at North Carolina State University W4ATC added a 40M yagi to their antenna selection in 1999. As Jim N3QYE reports, "Our contesters were very happy with it, and it was definitely worth the effort." One of the most improved stations this year was Harvard University W1AF, also celebrating its 90th Anniversary as an organized Amateur Radio club. "We made quite a number of improvements before the 1999 Sweepstakes. A second tower, a new second operating position, new 80M inverted vee, new TNC for packet, new computer for logging. This was all part of a year long renovation..." says Mike K3UOC. Brad KC0CDG, at the University of Missouri-Rolla W0EEE reports, "We just obtained a Yaesu FT-847 as our newest radio. It does an excellent job on all of its operating bands. We also have two other improvements planned before the 2000 Sweepstakes. In August, we will be building a new console that will be more friendly to two separate operating setups. The final touch to the setup out here will come when we build a 160 meter antenna of some kind for better 160M operating. We will be out in full force, ready to have some fun during SS."


CW Results

Call   School                     QSOs Sections Score    Conference  Power  Won
W6YX   Stanford Univ.             1006    79    158,948  Pac 10       H     S
W5YM   Univ. of Arkansas           972    77    149,688  SEC          H 
W6UE   Caltech                     946    78    147,576  SCIAC        H     S
W8EDU  Case Western Reserve Univ.  859    79    135,722  UAA          H
W1AF   Harvard Univ.               807    77    124,278  Ivy          H     S
N5XU   Univ. of Texas              681    78    106,236  Big 12       H     S 
W4ATC  North Carolina State        664    77    102,256  ACC          H 
N9UC   Univ. of Chicago            470    75     70,500  UAA          Q
W4AQL  Georgia Tech                438    77     67,452  ACC          H     S 
W0EEE  Univ. of Missouri-Rolla     283    71     40,186  MIAA         H 
WA5BU  Baylor Univ.                158    65     20,540  Big 12       L 
W1KBN  Northeastern Univ.           47    20      1,880  AEC          L
W7UNR  Univ. of Nevada-Reno         15    11        330  Big West     L

Phone Results

Call   School                     QSOs Sections Score    Conference  Power  Won
W6YX   Stanford Univ.             1659    79    262,122  Pac 10       H     SDT
W6UE   Caltech                    1597    79    252,326  SCIAC        H     SDT
N5XU   Univ. of Texas             1265    79    199,870  Big 12       H     S 
W4ATC  North Carolina State Univ. 1186    79    185,016  ACC          H 
WB9JBF Univ. of Wisc.-Milwaukee   1164    79    183,912  MCC          H
W4AQL  Georgia Tech               1136    79    179,488  ACC          H
W0EEE  Univ. of Missouri-Rolla    1097    79    173,326  MIAA         H     S
W8SH   Michigan State Univ.       1017    78    158,652  Big 10       H     S
W7ASU  Arizona State Univ.         893    79    141,094  Pac 10       H
W5YM   Univ. of Arkansas           879    79    138,882  SEC          H     S
W1MX   Mass. Inst. of Technology   816    79    128,928  NEFC         H     S
W1YK   Worcester Polytech. Univ.   508    79     80,264  NEWMAC       H     S
W7ISU  Idaho State Univ.           473    79     74,734  Big Sky      H
W1AF   Harvard Univ.               475    79     74,100  Ivy          H
W5GB   New Mexico State Univ.      398    76     60,496  Big West     H
WA5BU  Baylor Univ.                398    74     58,904  Big 12       L
W9UIH  Southern Illinois Univ.     259    73     37,814  GLV          H
W7UNR  Univ. of Nevada-Reno        203    67     27,202  Big West     L
WB4TOP Wake Tech. Comm. College    195    65     25,350               L
W9PU   IUPUI                       180    67     24,120  Mid-Cont.    H
W3AJ   Swarthmore College          126    64     16,128  Centennial   H
W5CBC  Central Bible College        96    49      9,408               H

Combined Results

Call   School                  CW     Phone   Total
W6YX   Stanford Univ.          1000   1000    2000 
W6UE   Caltech                  928    963    1891 
W5YM   Univ. of Arkansas        942    530    1472 
N5XU   Univ. of Texas           668    762    1430 
W4ATC  North Carolina State U.  643    706    1349 
W4AQL  Georgia Tech             424    685    1109 
W1AF   Harvard Univ.            782    283    1065 
W0EEE  Univ. of Missouri-Rolla  253    661     914 
WA5BU  Baylor Univ.             129    225     354 
W7UNR  Univ. of Nevada-Reno       2    104     106 

Participation by Conference 

Conference          CW    SSB    Total
----------          --    ---    -----
ACC                  2     2       4
Big 12               2     2       4
Pac 10               1     2       3
Big West             1     2       3
UAA                  2     0       2
Big 10               0     2       2
SEC                  1     1       2
SCIAC                1     1       2
Ivy                  1     1       2
MIAA                 1     1       2
AEC                  1     0       1
NEFC                 0     1       1
NEWMAC               0     1       1
Big Sky              0     1       1
Great Lakes Valley   0     1       1
Mid-Continent        0     1       1
Centennial           0     1       1

N/A                  0     2       1
                    ---   ---     ---
                    13    22      35

The Won column lists the ARRL award the station won. 
(S=Section, D=Division, T=Top Ten) 


"Not a bad little contest from here at GA Tech. We've just got to train a few more CW ops. And we got the clean sweep so it's time to buy a new mug. Hopefully they'll be a nicer color than last year. There were some unusual "rare" ones this contest (NE, WY, EWA, WWA) in addition to the ever-present VI and NWT..." - KE4QLI (@ Georgia Tech W4AQL)

"High point was outlasting the pileup for VY1JA. Our first use of the University of Chicago club call, N9UC, for a contest. Worked a number of other clubs, including W1AF, W1YK, W2CXM, W4ATC, N5XU, W5YM, W6BAB, W6UE, W6YX, and W8EDU." - WO9S (@ University of Chicago N9UC)

"Best tongue-in-cheek quote in SS: 'Let's work'em off the back of the dipole!'" - KI0MI (@ Univ. of Missouri-Rolla W0EEE)

"We had more operators in this year's CW Sweepstakes than any since 1989. At one point Saturday night, nine people were in our shack at once, and it was crowded!" - KM5FA (@ Univ. of Texas N5XU)

"The check of 09 really slowed things down. At the beginning, it was a guaranteed fill. Throughout the contest, the answer to any question was "09 09." What is so strange about being first licensed in 1909?" - KT1D (@ MIT W1MX)

"Lost quite a bit of sleep, and had a midnight antenna install (what contest would be without one?) Overall, a fun experience." -KE4QLI (@ Georgia Tech W4AQL)

"I was dreaming last night that I was in South Dakota, climbing orange trees, and not getting any points for it." - KT5I (@ Univ. of Texas N5XU)

"A few of our number insist on trying to rotate those wire dipoles. :-) We'll get them retrained eventually." - KB8ZQZ (@ Michigan State W8SH)

"As I keyed the mic at 4:01PM to make the first QSO, the power went out in the entire city of Worcester. Apparently, a mylar balloon hit a substation supply line and knocked everything out!" - N2YHK (@ Worcester Polytech W1YK)

"Stiff competition from our collegiate brethren up north. Looks like we will need to get serious." - W4EF (@ Caltech W6UE)


College and university clubs have produced many fine operators that have gone on to become world-class contesters. College club stations and multi-op contest efforts provide a great environment for learning the art of radio contesting. Support your alma mater or local college club this year!

Member Comments: Add A Comment
Keep it going Reply
by K5ZD on September 27, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
This is the coolest thing! I hope it is able to continue happening and attracts even more participation. I know the alumni are always happy to hear the club call show up on the band (as a UT-ex, I am always thrilled to hear N5XU).
arrl awards Reply
Anonymous post on October 3, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
I thought that the arizona university also won some category in the contest. Don't remember if it was division, section, top ten or what.
RE: arrl awards Reply
by wm5r on October 31, 2000 Mail this to a friend!
As far as I know, the University of Arizona K7UAZ did not enter the 1999 Sweepstakes in either mode.
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