And the Answer Is: NJIT Alum Who is Making Waves on Sports Jeopardy!

Vinay (Vinny) Varadarajan, who received a B.S. in civil engineering in 2011, is making waves on the sports version of the popular Jeopardy! quiz show.

As a young boy growing up in Fords, New Jersey, Vinay Varadarajan ’11 watched Jeopardy! with his family every evening at 7 p.m. He began to answer a few questions correctly at first and then more questions as the years went by. A longtime New York Yankees and baseball fan, his interest in transportation and civil engineering was sparked during his regular trips on the New York City subway to Yankee Stadium to watch his favorite team in action. More recently, Vanadarajan has parlayed his ongoing passion for sports trivia into a remarkable 14-game winning streak on Season Two of Sports Jeopardy! and a total $70,000 in prize winnings. 

“I’ve always found sports facts easy to remember and usually was the go-to guy during pub trivia nights (including while at NJIT!),” Varadarajan said. “I found out about the show while watching a sports program and thought, ‘Hey, I know sports trivia, let’s give it a shot!’”

Hosted by Emmy® Award-winning sportscaster Dan Patrick, Sports Jeopardy! streams every Wednesday on the Crackle digital-only network for a total 52 episodes each year. Varadarajan applied to become a contestant when the show just started, so the process began with registering online in July 2014 and then traveling to New York City to complete a 30-question test. Those who passed the test played a mock game of Sports Jeopardy! with buzzers and participated in a personality interview. After passing the initial test, Varadarajan was tested on his sports wits and buzzer reflexes, but was not called to be a contestant for Season One. 

“I thought it wasn’t meant to be,” he recalled. “One year later (July 2015), I got a call from the show to fly to Los Angeles for the second season and pack my sports knowledge with me!”

How does he prepare for the show?

“It’s really the culmination of all the sports facts you’ve learned over the past years,” Varadarajan explained. “Being a big Yankees and baseball fan, I began to learn about the history at a very young age. Safe to say, I used to make the commute from NJIT to Yankee Stadium quite a few times!”  

As an NJIT student and Albert Dorman Honors College scholar, Varadarajan was active in the Tau Beta Pi Engineering Honor Society and also was a member of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, which gave him an opportunity to meet other students interested in performing service around the Newark community along with building leadership skills for the future. During his sophomore year, he participated on the Steel Bridge Team, where seeing how a bridge was designed, fabricated, and built allowed him to learn about structures in a practical fashion before taking more civil engineering-specific classes. In addition, he participated in the Study Abroad program during his junior year, where he studied in Hong Kong for a semester. 

After completing his B.S. in civil engineering in 2011, Varadarajan worked in New Jersey for a year and a half and then went on to attend graduate school at Purdue University and complete his M.S. in transportation engineering last year. He is now employed as a transportation engineer in Washington, D.C. and still follows the Highlanders basketball team.

“I am forever grateful for the opportunities I was given at NJIT,” Varadarajan said. “The Honors College allowed me to concentrate on my studies rather than finances and the hybrid setup of taking classes from professors who were practicing engineers gave students like me a practical understanding of civil engineering.”

Varadarajan’s goal still is to make it on the original Jeopardy!

“But I’m thrilled with how Sports Jeopardy! has turned out!,” he says.

By Christina Crovetto
crovetto@njit.edu