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University Challenged

Well, it's happened: Corpus Christi Oxford have been stripped of their University Challenge title for fielding an ileligible contestant. Much has been said of Gail Trimble's consistently astounding performances for the team (except the final, when she was a bit shit until the last 10 minutes), and how much of a letdown it must be for her, but I feel sorry for everyone involved. And yes, I do think stripping them of the title is a mistake.

For a start, naughty boy Sam Kay was a student when the tournament began, only being ineligible for the final three matches of the competition. Clearly it's unfair that the team fielded a non-student, but I don't think Corpus Christi were at any great advantage - Kay was working as a graduate trainee for PricewaterhouseCoopers, not Stephen Fry's personal biographer. Or something. He was a student when he began - that should be enough. It's just not fair for the rest of the team to lose their title because of what is essentially a technicality.

And yes, I do believe it is a technicality. Gail Trimble is 26. Mature students are positively encouraged to participate. What, then, does it matter if a contestant has ceased to be a student some way during the competition? Clearly I'm not saying anyone should be allowed to enter and we should turn a blind eye to non-students representing a university, but in such a circumstance as this, I think common sense should prevail.

Secondly, he thought he was eligble. He didn't deliberately cheat; he made a mistake that really did nobody any harm.

And most importantly of all, Manchester University - the runners-up who have now been awarded the title - didn't even want it to be this way. They are sensible enough to realise the situation for what it is. In Manchester team captain Matthew Yeo's words, the Corpus Christi side were "deserving and worthy champions". He added: "We hope any decision does not detract from what was a thrilling final won by a truly tremendous team." Well said.

An ineligible player doesn't make the whole competition a farce - giving away the title does. And this decision won't help Manchester one bit, either. A student there - 22-year-old Cori Bromfeld - told the BBC that "to win in this way does take away some of the achievement. People in the future will say that we only won because the other team cheated." Exactly - whereas now, they'll be remembered as brave finalists who lost to an incredible team (and were 70-0 up at one point). OK, so it's more likely they won't be remembered much at all, but in University Challenge circles at least, they'd have a better reputation without the title.

But it is Corpus Christi who have ultimately lost out. A shame. Maybe Gail Trimble might take up that Nuts photo opportunity after all.

(In other news, the world plunges deeper into economic armageddon. Ah well.)

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