Skip to main content

Ken Jennings Is Technically Banned From Playing Jeopardy Now, But Here’s Why The EP Says That Could Change

As Jeopardy!’s official Greatest Of All Time, Ken Jennings has nothing left to prove as far as playing the game goes. That’s a good thing, too, because after the super champion began hosting the show following Alex Trebek’s death in 2020, he technically became disqualified from competing in any future tournaments. If the competition bug were to bite Jennings again, however, executive producer Michael Davies indicated there might still be hope, even if it would require the rules being bent.

On the Inside Jeopardy! (opens in new tab) podcast, producer Sarah Foss, whom fans know as part of the Clue Crew, discussed the show's already established rule that prevents anyone who has hosted Jeopardy! from participating in future games. She said those who were brought in as guest hosts have “seen behind the curtain,” so to speak, making it unfair for them to rejoin the fun as a competitor. Michael Davies, however, wasn’t ready to commit to such a rule concerning the chance that the GOAT himself would ever want to return. Davies said:

But I’m telling you, it’s like if Ken is the Greatest Of All Time — kind of like Arnold Palmer who tees off at The Masters — if Ken came to me desperately and said, ‘This is it. I still want to play Jeopardy!’ I cannot believe that I would completely close the door on Ken playing any form of Jeopardy! at any point in the future.

While the now-permanent co-host of Jeopardy! has already proven himself in different capacities — Ken Jennings won the title of Greatest Of All Time in 2020, after playing in a tournament against James Holzhauer and Brad Rutter — Michael Davies seemed reluctant to refuse anyone the pipe dream of possibly seeing the GOAT compete against more of Jeopardy!’s biggest winners, such as recent champs like Amy Schneider, Matt Amodio or Mattea Roach. 

It’s not like there’s much precedence for enforcing the “hosts can’t play” rule. It would seem any of the number of guest hosts who filled in after Alex Trebek passed away would be ineligible to compete in the new spinoff Celebrity Jeopardy!, which isn't all that wild. But there was another former contestant other than Ken Jennings who served as a host: Buzzy Cohen, the 2016 fan favorite who returned to head up the 2021 Tournament of Champions. Even in Cohen’s case, Michael Davies’ opinion went against the rule, as he said he feels like “Buzzy should be able to play Jeopardy! again.” One has to imagine Sarah Foss deals with this kind of thing a lot now. 

Whether or not Buzzy Cohen could return — or if he even wants to — remains to be seen, but Ken Jennings has apparently made his future clear. Michael Davies said the game show’s current host has insisted his days on the other side of the stage are over. The EP said:

Ken does consistently say he’s retired from playing. I wouldn’t close the door — as the commissioner of major league Jeopardy! — I wouldn’t close the door completely from Ken playing in the future, but he seems to have closed the door himself.

As much fun as it would be to see Ken Jennings face off against some of the more recent Jeopardy! winners, I think that decision seems like the right one. Once you’ve won $1 million and the right to call yourself the GOAT, why would you risk it? However, I’m not one to underestimate the power of the competitive spirit, so only time will tell. 

As we wait for the return of new Jeopardy! episodes, be sure to catch Celebrity Jeopardy! when it premieres Sunday, September 25, on ABC, and check our 2022 TV Schedule to see what else is coming soon.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.