"College Bowl" returned to television this week on The Disney Channel with a dash of today's technology and a splash of the sporting event.

Executive producer Richard Reid, whose father started the popular radio and television show 35 years ago, is quick to point out that this is not an all-new "College Bowl." Like the earlier show, it blends education and entertainment into a competitive format. Don Reid, who is working with his son on "College Bowl '87," offered one piece of advice at the outset: "Don't change a good thing."

Richard Reid agreed. "Nothing about the game has changed. We have a new set, and added more of a sporting-event flavor with introductions and half-time features, but the game's the same. Even the sound effects. While searching for some sound effects, I found the original box that was used for the buzzer and bell. I tried it. It worked fine. Sounded great."

Of the show's host, Dick Cavett, who presided over taping the 15-match series at Disney World, Reid said: "He was so well respected. Students relish the experience of being around him. But the real stars of the show are the students. When I first talked with the Disney people about the show, it was quickly decided that we didn't want a traditional game-show host. Cavett served as a host of a 'College Bowl' charity match at Yale {his alma mater} ... We called him, he agreed, and it's been an ideal choice."

The 16 teams in "College Bowl '87" are 15 regional winners and one wild card team (Kansas), survivors of 500 schools that participated in the elimination rounds held by the Association of College Unions -- International. At 5:30 today, Disney airs the Georgetown-Louisiana State University match.

Last week, Cornell beat Minnesota in the single-elimination tournament. New York University meets Washington University of St. Louis next week. It's Notre Dame vs. Western Connecticut on Oct. 4, Ohio State vs. University of California at Irvine on Oct. 11, Georgia Tech vs. Idaho on Oct. 18, North Carolina State vs. Utah on Oct. 25 and Wisconsin vs. Kansas on Nov. 1. The quarter-finals begin Nov. 8, semifinals Dec. 6 and 13, and the national championship Dec. 20.

Major upsets have spiced the show's popularity down through the years. This year, the Colonials of Western Connecticut in Danbury, with an enrollment of 3,000, beat Yale and Harvard in their region.

"College Bowl" aired on Mutual Radio from 1953 to 1957, hosted by Allen Ludden and later by Robert Earle. The game moved to network television on Sunday evenings for 12 years, and although it has not been a TV fixture since 1970, it survived through campus competitions. In late 1970s, the semifinals and finals were syndicated to more than 100 television markets, hosted by Art Fleming. Fleming also hosted a CBS radio series of "College Bowl" from 1979 to 1982. In 1984, Pat Sajak of "Wheel of Fortune" hosted a 30th anniversary special on NBC.

In its 12 years on network television, "College Bowl" received many prestigious honors, including a Peabody Award, an Emmy Award, a Parent-Teachers Association National Award, a Congressional Citation, and three Presidential Citations.

Don Reid noted that the show "has always been been running in some part of the world during that last 35 years. It is currently running in New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Holland, Brazil, Nigeria and England. On Granada Television in England it is called 'University Challenge,' and it has always been in the top 20."

"Historically, the show demonstrated appeal for all ages," added Richard Reid. "It lends itself to interactive family viewing and it is very appropriate that it should find a home on The Disney Channel."

Paulo de Oliveira, Disney vice president for program development, agreed: "People of all ages will enjoy matching wits with these top scholars." In cable television fashion, Disney gives those who miss the Sunday show a second chance: It airs a second time on Saturday nights.

In addition to developing on-campus "College Bowl" intramural, intercollegiate and national championship programs, Richard Reid Productions, Inc., is preparing another show, "Dream House," for syndication next fall. Reid has also co-created, produced or hosted "Fandango," "You Can Be a Star," "Play It Again, Nashville," "Split Decision," "Loveletters" and "Mesquite Rodeo."

Reid said that writing "College Bowl" questions is more difficult today than it was years ago. "Questions that were worth 25 points a while ago are now just 10. Students today are exposed to more information. They've also played the game a lot and know the style of the questions, enabling them to come up with answers before the question is complete. I wouldn't say they're smarter, although they do have more knowledge in the areas of computers and sciences. We could make the questions tougher, but we don't want the show to sound like it's in a foreign language."

" 'College Bowl' is really a game of quick recall of facts," said his father. "It's hardly the real picture of a well-rounded student."

"They're just so fast," noted Richard Reid. "That's what separates them."