Brad Rutter might not be as much of a household name as Ken Jennings or James Holzhauer, but he has made just as much of an impact on the Jeopardy! world. The 41-year-old game show contestant will be one of three contestants on Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time.
Rutter first appeared on Jeopardy! on October 30, 2000. At that time, a show rule stipulated that any contestant could not be on the show for more than five consecutive days. This meant that Rutter, though he won all five of his games, was retired from the show after those first days. He won $55,102 and a new car. At the time, Jeopardy! offered new cars to all five-game champions. These rules were both changed in 2003.
Rutter was still a college student when he later returned to compete in the Tournament of Champions in 2001. He later competed in the Ultimate Tournament of Champions in 2005. He and Ken Jennings, another Jeopardy! record holder, later appeared in the special Jeopardy! IBM Challenge, where they both lost to supercomputer Watson. He returned to the show again in 2014 for the Battle of the Decades and the 2019 Jeopardy! All-Star Games. He will compete in the 2020 Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time tournament as well.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. He Is The Highest-Earning Game Show Contestant
While Ken Jennings may have the title of the longest streak on Jeopardy!, he does not hold the title of the highest-earning contestant. While Rutter only earned $55,102 and a car for his regular-season play, his earnings in tournaments put him well above the other two Greatest of All Time contestants.
Including tournaments, Rutter has earned $4,688,436, according to Jeopardy!’s hall of fame website. Jennings is over $1 million behind Rutter in earnings, meaning that even if he wins the GOAT tournament, he will not take the highest-earning record. All three contestants will earn at least $250,000 in the tournament.
“The money is fantastic, but it’s not the best part,” Rutter told ET Canada when asked about the Greatest of All Time Tournament. “It’s the hanging out with the cast and crew and Alex and Johnny, and the other contestants, which is a ton of fun.
2. He Has Never Lost to a Human Competitor
Since Rutter’s first run on Jeopardy! was during a time when rules forbade winners from competing for more than five days in a row, he emerged undefeated. After that, he competed in the tournament of champions and other tournaments, all of which he’s won, coming out with his undefeated record intact.
The one time he lost was not to a human at all. In a special IBM Jeopardy! challenge, Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings competed against supercomputer Watson. As you can see in the above video, the first game seemed somewhat evenly-matched in the regular Jeopardy round, but once Double Jeopardy came around, Watson answered every question and ended up with a runaway before the Final Jeopardy question was asked.
In the second game, Watson pulled away even further, winning the game after getting the Final Jeopardy question correct. In the end, Watson won the two-day match with a total of $77,147. Jennings came in second place, with $24,000 and Rutter placed third with $21,600. Since this was a special game, it does not affect his official standings on the Jeopardy! leaderboard.
3. He Dropped Out of College
Before appearing on Jeopardy!, Rutter was on the quiz bowl team at his high school, Manheim Township High School in Neffsville, Pennsylvania. According to QBwiki, That team won second place at the 1994 Texaco Star National Academic Championship, and he is one of the 19 people to be named to the National Academic Championship Hall of Fame in its 25-year history. He also hosted a televised high school quiz show in 2004.
After high school, Rutter attended John Hopkins University where he studied English. After his Jeopardy! run, however, he dropped out. He instead worked at a CD store, where he spent some of his earnings.
“No sense making plans to get a job or finish school at John Hopkins, which I just wasn’t getting anything out of,” he told the Baltimore Sun. “Life was waiting to go back to Jeopardy!”
4. He Would Host Jeopardy! if Asked To
In a Reddit Ask Me Anything, fans asked Rutter if he had ever thought about hosting the show and if he would do so if they asked him to.
“I’d be crazy to turn it down,” he wrote in his reply. “That’s the best gig in show business, which is why they wouldn’t have any trouble finding someone way more famous than me to do it.”
Interestingly, U.S. Bookies gave Rutter odds of 6 to 1 for replacing Alex Trebek as the host of the show as of January 7, 2020. Of course, Trebek’s contract isn’t up until 2022. There’s no telling when the host will retire, and there have been no hints at who may replace him when he is ultimately done on the show.
5. He And Ken Jennings Are Friends Outside the Show
Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter aren’t enemies; they are actually good friends outside the show. Rutter has said multiple times that he’s not bothered by the fact that Jennings has more of a household name than he does. He can often be seen retweeting Jennings on Twitter as well.
When asked if he was bothered by Jennings, he joked that he prays for Jennings to be smited. Then, he honestly replied and said it bothers his friends more than it bothers him. “Not to get all sappy,” he wrote. “But he is actually a great guy and a wonderful ambassador for the show.”
Rutter also told TMZ he and Jennings were able to bond over getting “spanked” by Watson.