Georgetown Wins the NDT…AGAIN!

Here’s a trivia question you might not be able to answer.  What is the fastest “sporting” competition in the world?  Ping Pong? Wrong.  Formula 1 racing? Not even close.  Here’s a hint.  500 per minute.  Do you give up?  Try speaking 500 words a minute.  No, it’s not a spelling bee of auctioneers.  The answer is college debate, policy debate to be exact.  Unless you are part of the debate community at the high school or collegiate level, you may never have heard a “proper” debate.  They aren’t televised very often if at all.  You’ll not hear one on the radio dial.  And they are nothing like the presidential debates, in fact they are far more demanding and intellectual stimulating if you can follow or as debaters might say, flow the arguments.  The problem isn’t that an average educated American couldn’t understand the arguments, although they are often nuanced and developed.  The problem is that the average American could not understand someone speaking 500 words a minute.  Yes, 500, that’s not a typo. That’s some Fast Talk indeed and I’m not sure which is more impressive – someone who can speak that fast or someone who can understand someone speaking that fast.  In any event, it’s not gibberish – debaters make sense to one another and the judges evaluating the rounds, who most often are debate coaches who themselves once debated competitively.

So, what’s up in the debate world these days? Well, this:  the Georgetown team of Andrew Arsht and Andrew Markoff (the Andrews as they are called), also known as Georgetown AM, won their second National Championship in the last three years at the National Debate Tournament, the most prestigious, invitation only, collegiate tournament in the United States.  Who did they beat? A formidable opponent from the University of Michigan – Ellis Allen and Alex Pappas, who earlier in round 7 of the prelims defeated Georgetown AM.  These teams were evenly matched and had each defeated the other in their two previous meetings.  Georgetown AM defeated Michigan AP in quarters at Georgia State University and lost to them in prelims at Dartmouth.

Like the NCAA basketball tournament, the NDT has brackets, seedings and the like, only they start with 80 teams and play more games or rounds as they are called.  In fact, preliminaries consist of 8 rounds over the course of two days.  The teams with the best records advance to the break rounds  where it is one and done from there on out: doubles, octofinals, quarterfinals, semifinals and the final round.  This year, the debate final four consisted of teams noted for their research and prowess at the podium:  Oklahoma, Harvard, Michigan and Georgetown.

With three teams qualifying for the tournament, team Oklahoma dominated in the preliminary rounds.  The tandem of Rashid Campbell and George Lee went 8-0 in prelims, actually beating the eventual champs, Georgetown AM, in Round 8. Rashid Campbell went on to win the top speaker award of the tournament and earned a perfect score of 30 points on three of the 24 ballots awarded during prelims.  Campbell and his partner, George Lee, advanced to the semifinal round. By the way, a ballot is the judge’s scorecard of the debate. There are three judges in each of the prelim rounds.  Campbell and Lee won 23 of 24 ballots in their first 8 rounds, a fairly spectacular feat.  To put the perfect scores in perspective, each of the 160 debaters in the tournament receive speaker points from each of the three judges in each of the first 8 rounds.  All told, there were approximately 3,840 scores given to all the competitors and there were only 7 perfect ones awarded.  Vida Chiri from Liberty earned 2.  She finished as the 27th best speaker and she and her partner advanced to doubles,the first break round after preliminaries. Eric Lanning of Houston received a perfect score too in one of his rounds. He was recognized as the 7th best speaker of the tournament.  He and his partner advanced to the quarterfinals.  And Ameena Ruffin from Towson, earned 1.  She finished as the number 13 speaker and with her partner Korey Johnson, advanced to doubles. Impressively, Ruffin and Johnson won the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) national championship earlier in March becoming the first all-female African American team to do so in CEDA history.

Back to Oklahoma domination.  Get this: they had three qualifying teams that won more debates in preliminary rounds than any other team – 18 and won 53 judges ballots. Harvard also had three teams in the tournament and won 16 debates in prelims and 46 ballots; Northwestern had 16 wins and 45 ballots.  Georgetown qualified only two teams but won 12 rounds in prelims and 36 ballots.  One could argue, and I will,  that they were the most efficient and effective squad in the tournament with a team advancing to octofinals and another winning it all.

Dartmouth qualified 2 teams and only won 3 debates in prelims and just a total of 12 ballots.  Dartmouth last won the NDT in 1993 and had a Copeland winning team in 2001-2002.


  • John Spurlock, top speaker and winner of the 2013 high school Tournament of Champions (TOC) finished as the 22nd best speaker of the 2014 NDT tournament, debating for Cal Berkeley.
  • Liam Hancock, one half of the 2012 TOC winning team from Iowa West, finished as the 85th speaker as a sophomore debating for Iowa.  Iowa advanced to octos.
  • Michigan’s Ellis Allen, 2014 NDT runner up won the TOC in 2010 and 2011 with partner Daniel Taylor, who debates for Harvard and also advanced to octos with partner Anna Dimitrijevic, the top TOC speaker in 2010.







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