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Michigan State Debate Team Wins the National Championship

The 60th Annual National Debate Tournament was hosted this year by Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. The dates were from March 23-27, 2006.

Each year, hundreds of universities across the country field policy debate teams. Only 78 two-person teams qualify for the National Debate Tournament. MSU qualified three:

Ryan Buke and Casey Harrigan were awarded a first round at large bid to the NDT, an award given to the top 16 teams in the country as ranked prior to the NDT. Burke and Harrigan received a 3rd place ranking going into the tournament. The top 16, in order, were as follows: Harvard, Cal-Berkeley, MSU, Northwestern, Dartmouth, Emory, Dartmouth “B”, Emory “B”, Wake Forest, Wayne State, George Washington, University of Kansas, Whitman College, Idaho State, Missouri State, and the University of Georgia. The At-Large awards are voted on by a national panel of debate coaches.

Andrea Reed (James Madison Junior from Highland Park, Texas) and Garret Abelkop (James Madison Freshman from Alpharetta, Georgia) qualified for the NDT by placing 2nd at the NDT District V tournament. They did not advance to elimination rounds.

James Durkee (Political Theory Junior from Mt. Vernon, WA) and Jilian Tietjen (James Madison Junior from Grosse Pointe) qualified by being recognized as one of the best “third teams” in the nation (a separate voting process). They went 4-4 at the NDT but did not advance to elimination rounds

Ryan Burke was awarded the 17th place speaker award at the NDT. Casaey Harrigan was recognized as the 11th place speaker. These awards are based on points given by the judges during preliminary rounds. They do not factor in elimination debates.

In the preliminary debates, Burke and Harrigan were 8-0. They accumulated 22 ballots (out of 24 possible), which has only been topped once in the history of the tournament. The duo defeated teams from Harvard, Emory, Missouri State, University of Kentucky, University of Georgia, Wayne State, and Dartmouth.

After an NCAA basketball style elimination round sequence, the “elite eight” emerged. This featured stiff competition from some of the country’s strongest academic institutions. Cal-Berkeley, Dartmouth, Emory, Harvard, Northwestern, Wake Forest, and Wayne State faced off for spots in the final four.

Top-seeded Michigan State narrowly defeated Cal-Berkeley. Wayne State upset defending champion Northwestern, Wake forest upset Harvard, and second-seeded Emory defeated Dartmouth.

The semifinals saw Michigan State defeating Wayne State on a 4-1 decision. Wake Forest defeated Emory (also on a 4-1 decision).

Having won the National Debate Tournament in 2004, this is Michigan State’s second National Championship in three years. It makes Michigan State the 3rd program to have ever accomplished that feat.

In the 60 year history of the National Debate Tournament, no public university have ever won the event twice in a three year span.

The sides for these debates are determined by a coin flip. For the final debate, Wake Forest won the coin flip and chose to affirm that the United States Federal Government should increase economic pressure on the People’s Republic of China.

Michigan State ultimately emerged victorious at 1:30am CST on a 6-1 decision.

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