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Debate Team Earns Two Bids to Exclusive Round Robin Tournament

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Rarely does a school receive one invitation to one major round robin tournament during the same debate season. It is almost unheard of for a school to receive multiple invitations to several leading round robins during a given term. Yet, this is exactly what the Rutgers University-Newark (RU-N) Debate Team accomplished when it received invites to two exclusive round robin tournaments in the same season as a result of its strong and impressive debate performances in 2015.

In the fall of 2015, partners Devane Murphy of Newark, New Jersey, and Nicole Nave of Ferguson, Missouri, and teammates Kevon Haughton and Christian Quiroz, both from Newark, New Jersey, received bids to compete in the 19th Annual Val A. Browning Round Robin tournament at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Open to just 16 pairs of the nation’s top debaters selected by a committee of professors and debate coaches, the RU-N pairs pitted wits against representatives of some of the strongest, most successful programs in the United States: California State University, Fullerton; Kansas State University; University of Iowa; and University of Texas. Each RU-N pair posted stellar performances, with Nave and Murphy winning first and second place speaker honors, respectively, in their group or “pod.”

In December 2015, the team earned its second round robin invitation to the Marie Hochmuth Round Robin, which will be hosted at the University of Pittsburgh on January 22-26, 2016. Again, only 16 elite pairs of debaters will compete. Other invitees include: Baylor University; Emory University; Georgetown University; Northwestern University; The United States Military Academy at West Point; University of California, Berkeley; University of Kentucky; University of Texas at Austin; University of Vermont; Wake Forest University; and West Georgia State University. All-in-all, the Marie Hochmuth Round Robin will constitute RU-N’s third appearance in an invitation-only round robin.

According to Christopher Kozak, RU-N’s director of debate and coach of the team, a round robin tournament differs from a standard tournament in that hundreds of teams may enter a standard tournament but only compete against a certain number of debaters throughout the entire tournament. A round robin tournament, on the other hand, limits the number of teams to 16, which are divided into two pods of eight. Each team is required to debate every team in its respective pod. The top team from each pod then debates each other in a final round to see who gets crowned champion of the tournament.

So far this season, RU-N has had or will have a team represented in each pod of its round robins. Performances at round robin tournaments are viewed favorable when determining first-round, at-large qualifications to the National Debate Tournament (NDT). First round qualifications go to the teams ranked among the top 16 at the conclusion of the regular debate season prior to the NDT.

“Receiving two invitations to two round robin tournaments this year demonstrates that Rutgers University-Newark is competing at the top level of collegiate debate,” notes Kozak.

Now in its seventh year, the RU-N debate team is the product of a partnership among the RU-N Office of the Chancellor, Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration, and the Jersey Urban Debate League, now known as the Newark Debate Academy. The team’s roster includes novice and seasoned debaters pursuing undergraduate studies in various disciplines, and many are Newark natives.

(Photo (left to right): Christopher Kozak, Devane Murphy, Christian Quiroz, Nicole Nave, Kevon Haughton, and Willie Johnson; photo credit: Roy Groething)