The NDT is over. Many seasons have come to an end. Everyone can take a breath. You made it to the end. An honest to goodness season occurred over zoom. There are no asterisks here. People found a way to work hard when some were never in the same room as their coaches or teammates all season. Really incredible. There will be more earnest posts in the future, particularly about the future of debate, but for now here is what caught my eye.
If you were an oddsmaker and you wanted to improve your chances of your team winning, debaters like IanM are top 5 draft picks.
College novice to NDT elims. Warms my cold dead heart every time. How many other folks are there on college campuses who never knew what debate was in high school that could have a similar story?
I grew out of imprinting initials on cards a few years ago. I would wager it was correct to do so. Two justifications for it are: imprinting is accountability (what if IanM cut Drezner 15 or whatever it was??) and makes it easier to figure out exactly how much work someone is doing. At Liberty I found this useful because with a novice-based team it clarified how much work was required at varying levels of seriousness.
The downside is it looks bad, it signals information to your opponents (most isn’t helpful, but the earnest argument is “oh look they only go for cards they cut, none tagged by other people, so I will change coverage accordingly”) and leads to clout-chasing toxicity within a team. You can tell who cuts a lot of cards and who doesn’t anyway – imprinting cards and keeping score is unnecessary.
So, I think the downside outweighs, but I like the signaling done by the IanMs and KENs of the world who are cutting a lot of cards for their team.
2. Kelly Phil
She debated on a flipped schedule while in Taiwan for a tournament that lasts like 12 days and made it to quarters?? I hazard to say we may not see anything quite like that again at the NDT. Incredible work from the frosh.
3. 11 judge panels
What better way to hedge than let 11 people judge your debates? 11 chances to roll the dice! I love the chaos potential. The best part is that this 11 judge panel clocked a very reasonable decision time compared to some of these other elimination panels.
4. Dartmouth cards
I love that they are all formatted different. I like how they don’t look like other teams’. I like how the length is totally random. Would I be so bold as to put money on the quality of card that I am getting? I sure wouldn’t. Sometimes you get something awesome, sometimes you get two lines of a Raam fever dream. But it is the journey that matters!
5. 8-0, 19 ballots
My debate career was not the most storied. One fun fact is that my senior year, I went 6-2 with 12 ballots at the NDT. I believe that is the only time that score has been registered.
So when I saw 8-0 with 19 registered by Kansas BF, I thought that surely a jackpot had been hit and a unique NDT score had been registered.
Not so! In 1977, Northwestern Love and Singer also registered an 8-0 with 19 ballots. They beat Middle Tennessee and lost to Redlands in the quarters (NDT cleared to octafinals in this era).
For the real history nerds out there, 8-0 with 18 was done twice too. Michigan SW (Stoughton and Wexler (of HRIA CP fame)) in 1998 and in 2003 by Georgia PR (Powers and Ramachandrappa)
6. Flexy Peens
I would stake my life on two claims. First, everything said about flexible response seemed banal. There are O’Hanlon cards on every topic, don’t fall prey to their siren song. Second, Peens was the best area to be affirmative. If you know you know.
I was very conflicted when Georgetown read flexible response for Peens. It is like this:
But an affirmative.
7. Maraj 20
I would read up on Louis Maraj’s CV and the people they cite and who cite them. I would speculate it could be the next big thing, a la Grove 20.
8. Fucking Fleming
T-there are only four affirmatives. It is the quarters of the NDT. Everyone is sitting around past the four-hour mark waiting for Fleming to decide. What would the payout have to be for you to stake anything against Fleming sitting on the bottom of a 4-1? I think it was clear what was going to happen after about 20 minutes.
Seriously though, let’s time elims at like 3 hours, maybe 3:15. Gotta cap those diminishing returns somewhere. I guess we can exempt the finals.
I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that everyone has an opinion on the way schedules work. The issue we run into in debate is that we aren’t great at dialogue and hashing out a consensus. I think we can do it! We can make progress on schedules.
The first question: what is the baseline amount of time needed in a preround? I propose 30 minutes. I am sure this does not comport to the way some teams handle their business now, but as a bar any team could learn to live and thrive with, 30 mins of prep before a debate is adequate.
The real thing to hash out is what values warrant deviating from that baseline. For example:
Round 7 and 8 largely determine who clears. Should there be more prep time?
Some rounds are impacted by food breaks. More time?
Elims are more important to prelims. Should prep time for round 2 and the octafinals be the same?
You can’t be eliminated from the tournament in round 1 or 2 (you could draw the line to include round 3 maybe). Tournaments (mine included) apply the same prep to all rounds. I can’t say this maximizes any value beyond like…if you set the bar at like 40 minutes and do it consistently then people do not complain. I can’t say it is achieving good values though.
The rub is that the days are very long, and we have to reckon with it.
10. So much topicality, so little topic
Ugh, I won’t beat a dead horse. I am not going to go for broke. It is not in the cards. But wowza – so much topicality about nothing. It will never not be funny that this was supposed to be the DA’s topic.
11. More History
Non-male top speakers before 2021: Patricia Stallings from Houston in 1957, Gloria Cabada from Wake Forest in 1988, Stephanie Spies and Ryan Beiermeister from Northwestern back to back in 2011 and 2012, Natalie Knez from Georgetown in 2018.
Black top speakers before 2021: Rashid Campbell from Oklahoma in 2014, and Devane Murphy from Rutgers in 2017.
Azja Butler from Kansas is the sixth non-male top speaker, the third Black top speaker and the first ever Black woman to win top speaker at the NDT. One of the reasons the NDT always gets the juices flowing, even for people out of the activity for decades, is that the NDT is what shapes the history books more than anything.
As a debate lifer I do not think you can recognize the special team efforts required to carve out a place in history enough. Special kudos to Jyleesa Hampton. She started coaching in 2015-16, and you would be hard pressed to find a coach whose teams have put up better results.
Other fun ones you may not have ventured to guess. Kansas had the top two speakers BUT they were not partners. A school has definitely had the top two speakers before (Rutgers MN, Harvard BS, NU BK, NU GS to be precise). This is the first time a school had the top two speakers from different partnerships. No amount of going for T-substantial could hold Nate Martin down!
The other, more obvious historymaker is Pitt MO. This blog has been on the record that the heg good affirmative was not what it seemed against the K, and if equally debated the Neg should find a way to win. I believe that is what happened in the doubles vs Emory.
It would be difficult to find an NDT semis performance this impressive, given the combination of their low seeding with the strength of opposition faced. The college policy alums Facebook page certainly did dig up some interesting examples. Kansas BR in 2016, as a non-bid team that made the finals, is certainly up there.
Trevor Wells from Facebook: Harvard KT (Karem & Tushnet), 1992. 11th bid, 15th seed. Beat the #18 seed (Pittsburgh BR) in the doubles, and then unleased some huge wins in the octas (Texas GM, the #2 seed and #5 bid), quarters (Wayne State AG, the #10 seed and #12 FRALB [which seems so low in retrospect; those guys were fire]), and semifinals (Dartmouth AL, the #3 seed and #1 FRALB), before losing a 6-1 decision in the final to Georgetown AK (the #8 seed).
The only other history note I have at the moment: 3 of the semifinals teams had a Black debater on it. Easily could be the first time such a thing has happened.
12. Unbroken Aff Bracket
The people in the trenches report they were unenthused by the affirmatives that were broken at the NDT. Too predictable. Too banal. By popular demand – if you want to send me a 1AC for an affirmative that was unbroken at the NDT, I will create a Bracket (with a capital B that…) and let the good people decide if there are any true innovators among us. Let the chips fall where they may. Everyone put their cards on the table. Cowards can’t block warriors.
Very surreal NDT. Congratulations if your season concluded. You made it.
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I am Lincoln, retired debate coach . This site's purpose is to post my ramblings about policy debate.