Pitt professor Ally Bove reflects on ‘Jeopardy!’ appearance


Image courtesy of Ally Bove

Pitt professor Ally Bove on the set of Jeopardy.

By Julia DiPietro, Staff Writer

Jeopardy,” the iconic American game show that highlights contestants’ skills and knowledge in trivia, featured a proud Panther last Wednesday when Ally Bove joined the stage to compete.

Bove, a professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, played against Emma Shirato Almon and Amy Schneider, who was a 30-day champion at that point. She came in second place, winning $2,000 after missing the final “Jeopardy!” question. Schneider won the game, adding $11,000 to make her 31-day total $1,068,800.

Bove, who has worked at Pitt for seven years, said she’s always been a fan of trivia game shows, which influenced her to audition.

“When I was younger, I’d watch the show with my grandparents and was always really impressed with how many answers my grandfather knew. He always encouraged my love of learning, and I made getting on ‘Jeopardy!’ a life goal,” Bove said. “I’ve always loved anything trivia-related – I love trivia board games and pub trivia.”

According to Bove, it was an extensive process getting on “Jeopardy!” and took her many tries over the course of 10 years before she was invited to compete.

“You start with an online test. If you pass then you may be invited for a full audition. This includes playing a fake game against two other prospective contestants, taking another written exam, and being interviewed by producers,” Bove said. “I completed that process in 2020, and then waited around one year before I got the call inviting me to be on the show.”

To prepare for the show, Bove studied intensively with the help of her husband. She said her degrees in biological sciences, health sciences and physical therapy helped narrow down the topics she needed to focus on.

“I made flashcards and filled up a notebook with a page on each category that I wanted to learn about, and my husband quizzed me every night after work,” Bove said. “I didn’t spend any time studying science in preparation for the show – I assumed I already knew everything I needed to know about science and medicine.”

“Jeopardy!” films five episodes each day, keeping contestants at the studio for about 12 hours. Due to COVID-19, Bove said there were many restrictions put in place to keep everyone on set safe.

“It was really fun, but also exhausting. I was asked to come and be an alternate for a day, so I did this two days in a row,” Bove said. “And because of COVID restrictions, they try to keep you outside anytime you may be eating or drinking — so it’s a little bizarre eating lunch in a parking garage.”

Jeopardy host Ken Jennings, left, and Pitt professor Ally Bove on the set of Jeopardy. (Image courtesy of Ally Bove)

Being on a game show for the first time was a bit stressful for Bove. For example, she said it was difficult adjusting to the signaling devices contestants use when answering questions.

“The most stressful part for me was rehearsal, they let you play a few portions of games before they begin filming, and I had a lot of trouble with the signaling device. During my first rehearsal, I successfully rang in zero times,” Bove said.  “I was really worried that I would totally blow it and end up with $0 because I couldn’t figure out the timing with the buzzer.”

Bove also said she loved meeting the other contestants who she played against on the show.

“The most fun part was becoming friends with all of the other contestants,” Bove said. “We keep in touch and have really enjoyed watching each other’s appearances over the past two weeks.”

According to Bove, the department of physical therapy supported her in journey on the show.

“My colleagues and students in the department of physical therapy have been here every step of the way,” Bove said. “Everyone knows that being on ‘Jeopardy!’ was a huge goal of mine, and they have been my most enthusiastic cheerleaders as I worked toward it.”

One of Bove’s close colleagues, Ronna Delitto, an associate professor in the department of physical therapy, said she knew that Bove had been waiting years to go on the show.

“I remember Ally calling me being very excited to give the news that she was selected to be a contestant on ‘Jeopardy.’ I was so happy for her because she had been hoping to hear for a while,” Delitto said. “I knew she had tried out while Alex Trebek was still alive and waited a long time to finally get the invitation. I waited anxiously for her big day to play and for the show to be aired on January 12.”

Tara Hankin, vice chair of the department of physical therapy, also felt that Bove deserved her spot on the show. According to Hankin, Bove persevered through her studies and tests in the “Jeopardy!” selection process.

“For as long as I have known Ally she has talked about her dream of being on ‘Jeopardy.’ She approached ‘Jeopardy!’ the same way she approaches everything within the Department — with steadfast focus and preparation.” Hankin said. “She routinely studied and prepared in the event that she would be called upon as a contestant. This was a process that spanned several years — she never wavered in her quest to be a part of the show.”

All in all, Bove said she was happy with her performance and experience on “Jeopardy!” and encouraged others to try out if they’re interested.

“There are a few categories that I could have studied more, but honestly I’m just excited to have met my goal of appearing on the show,” Bove said. “Take the test. And if you don’t get on the show, keep trying. It took me 10 years before I was successful.”

A previous version of this story said Bove won $1,000. She won $2,000. The article has been updated to reflect this change. The Pitt News regrets this error.