Mack Brown’s daughter discusses her run on ‘Jeopardy!’

Katherine Brown Ryan won more than $22,000 on one of Alex Trebek’s final shows

Katherine Ryan, pictured with longtime host Alex Trebek in one of his final episodes before his death, won more than $22,000 on the show while exhibiting her father’s confidence. (Photo courtesy Of Jeopardy Productions, Inc.)

One thing is clear: Mack Brown’s daughter would have also gone for two against Clemson.

The UNC head coach passed up a game-tying extra point at the end of the game against then top-ranked Clemson last year to go for a game-winning two-point conversion. The move earned Brown criticism from armchair quarterbacks but also widespread respect and the hashtag #onions for being willing to take a chance to go for the win instead of playing it conservatively.

So it should come as no surprise that when defending “Jeopardy!” champion Katherine Ryan, who just happens to be Brown’s daughter, had the chance to wager near the end of her second game on the show, she bet big.

With one clue left on the board, she hit a Daily Double, allowing her to bet any amount of money, up to the $8,400 she had at the time. She trailed by $16,000 at the time, and it looked like her run on the show would be ending soon.

So Ryan bet the house, wagering all $8,400 on the question. If she missed, she likely wouldn’t even get to participate in Final Jeopardy, but it was the only way she could pull out a victory.

She got it right, then bet it all again in Final Jeopardy.

The bold moves didn’t pay off, but like her father against Clemson last year, she went down with as big a fight as she could muster, damn the torpedoes.

The loss capped a three-month stretch she described as “a whirlwind.”

Ryan spoke to NSJ on Monday afternoon, shortly before her second show aired, and she wasn’t allowed to give any spoilers on her second game. But clearly, despite the loss, she was living the dream.

She’d been taking the online test to get on the show for five years — since her daughter was born. She called the decision a product of “sleep deprivation.” Ryan had never gotten any kind of response until earlier this year when she got called back for a series of Zoom auditions and was ultimately selected for the show. She ended up winning $22,801, part of which will take her on a trip to Cyprus.

As it turned out, she was there for a historic period in the show’s history. She appeared on one of the final shows in Alex Trebek’s run as host. He died of pancreatic cancer in early November, just over a month after Ryan’s tapings. His final taped show is scheduled to air on Christmas Day. 

“We shot it in September,” she said. “We never knew, of course, that it would be among Alex Trebek’s last round of shows. We knew he was ill, of course, but you couldn’t tell from looking at him that he was as ill as he must have been. It was a really great experience and just an honor to be up there with Alex Trebek because he’s such a legend.”

While Ryan showed off her knowledge in a variety of subjects, the questions that she didn’t get to answer were the ones that haunted her. Chief among them, a question about the home of the Green Bay Packers — Lambeau Field.

Ryan wants to make it clear that she knew Lambeau Field was the answer, she just couldn’t ring in fast enough. Still, it’s a tough break for the daughter of a football coach to miss the Lambeau Field question.

“I also worked in Hollywood for a long time,” she said. “And I wasn’t able to ring in for the Hollywood category. So I heard from my Hollywood friends about that category, and from Dad about Lambeau Field.”

Rewatching it on Friday, she was yelling at the television: “Felicity Huffman! Lambeau Field!”

Her father has been a proud pop, tweeting about her appearances and bragging about her in interviews.

“He’s been cute,” she said. “He said, ‘I was on Jim Rome, and he asked more about you than about the Miami game.’” He also brought her up, along with Lambeau Field, during his halftime interview during Saturday’s game.

“He called me this morning to say, ‘The players were discussing you during their team meeting. They think you must be a genius!’” she said.

Ryan has been a topic of conversation during Brown’s press conferences for the past week.

“All of these parents can pull for their kids in sports,” he said. “I can pull for mine in ‘Jeopardy!’ I’m not smart enough to be on ‘Jeopardy!’ I’m glad she is.”

Brown also joked that he wasn’t smart enough to help her prepare.

“I haven’t been able to help her,” he said. “Even worse, she knew not to ask, which is kind of bad, but it’s true.”

Of course, that wasn’t true. When the game was in its final seconds and a bold move was required, she was able to follow the lead of her Hall of Fame father.

It turns out defending a “Jeopardy!” title is just like knocking off the number one team in the nation — it takes onions.