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KU hosts National Debate Tournament

Thursday, March 09, 2017

LAWRENCE – While basketball teams from across the nation compete for a spot in the Final Four, another heated championship will be taking place at the University of Kansas, where the nation’s best collegiate debaters will compete in the 71st National Debate Tournament.

This is the first time the tournament, March 24-27, will be hosted by KU. A total of 156 debaters, representing 44 universities, will vie for the championship at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park. The 78 teams will compete in eight preliminary rounds, then try to advance through five more elimination rounds to reach the final, championship round March 27.

Since 1947, nearly 300 universities nationwide have competed in the tournament. It is the oldest collegiate policy debate tournament in the country. The tournament regularly attracts about 500 attendees.

“This competition is exciting and intense. Rounds often go on past midnight, and teams have to be ready to go again the next morning. KU has a long history with the National Debate Tournament, and we are honored to host the best debaters in the country,” said Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate at KU.

This year marks the 50th consecutive year KU Debate has qualified teams to compete at the National Debate Tournament. KU will be represented at the tournament by:

  • Quaram Robinson, junior from Round Rock, Texas, pre-law and majoring in African and African-American studies; and Kyndall Delph, freshman from Little Rock, Arkansas, majoring in English. Robinson competed last year with Sion Bell, coming in second at the National Debate Tournament.
  • Jacob Hegna, sophomore from Overland Park, majoring in computer science and mathematics; and Henry Walter, sophomore from Overland Park, majoring in economics and political science.
  • Chris Birzer, senior from Leawood, majoring in mathematics with a minor in chemistry; and Madison Cook, senior from Shawnee, majoring in political science and history.

Robinson/Delph and Hegna/Walter were two of the top-16 individual teams in the country selected as automatic qualifiers for the tournament based on their performance over the course of the regular season. The only other schools to have two teams in the top-16 qualifiers this year are University of California-Berkeley and Emory University.

KU is one of six universities with three qualifying teams in the tournament. The others are Emory University, Harvard University, University of Michigan, Northwestern University and Wake Forest University.

Other teams from Kansas and Missouri that will compete are from University of Missouri-Kansas City, Missouri State University and Wichita State University. Missouri State Coach Eric Morris and Wichita State Coach Jeff Jarman are KU alumni and former assistant coaches for the KU Debate Team.

The KU Debate Team’s successful history in national competition rivals that of the KU men’s basketball team. KU Debate has won the National Debate Tournament championship five times in its history. The most recent championship team, Brett Bricker and Nate Johnson, brought home the trophy in 2009. Bricker is now assistant coach for the KU Debate squad.

KU has qualified for the National Debate Tournament in 66 of the 71 years of the tournament’s existence. The university also has had a team reach the final four at least once every decade since the tournament began in 1947, reaching its first final four in 1948 and most recently last year. KU has advanced to the final four 15 times.

School groups interested in viewing the competition should contact Scott Harris, sharris@ku.edu. Media inquiries should be directed to Kristi Henderson, khenderson@ku.edu.

The KU Debate Team is part of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

The following universities will have teams competing in the National Debate Tournament. The number in parentheses denotes the number of teams representing the university.

  • Arizona State University
  • Baylor University (2)
  • Binghamton University (2)
  • University of California- Berkeley (2)
  • University of Central Oklahoma (2)
  • Cornell University
  • Dartmouth College (2)
  • Emory University (3)
  • George Mason University (2)
  • Georgetown University (2)
  • University of Georgia (2)
  • Georgia State University
  • Gonzaga University (2)
  • Harvard University (3)
  • University of Iowa
  • Indiana University (2)
  • James Madison University (2)
  • University of Kansas (3)
  • University of Kentucky (2)
  • University of Mary Washington
  • University of Michigan (3)
  • Michigan State University (2)
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of Missouri-Kansas City (2)
  • Missouri State University
  • University of Nevada-Las Vegas (2)
  • University of Northern Iowa
  • Northwestern University (3)
  • University of Oklahoma (2)
  • University of Pittsburgh (2)
  • Rutgers University-Newark (2)
  • University of Southern California
  • Stanford University
  • University of Texas (2)
  • University of Texas-Dallas
  • Towson University
  • Trinity University (2)
  • United States Military Academy
  • Wake Forest University (3)
  • Wayne State University
  • Weber State University
  • University of West Georgia (2)
  • Wichita State University (2)
  • University of Wyoming

Photo: KU Debate Team, 2016-'17 (credit: Earl Richardson)