Value debate

Tournament of Champions (debate)

The Tournament of Champions is a national caliber high school debate tournament which is held annually at the University of Kentucky on the first weekend of May. It is regarded as the championship tournament of the "national circuit," representing the most competitively successful debaters from the nation's most prestigious individual debate tournaments. The tournament is directed by J.W. Patterson, the director of debate at the University of Kentucky.

Since its inception in 1972, the Tournament of Champions has emerged as the premier championship for high school debaters who frequently compete nationally in Policy debate, Lincoln-Douglas debate, Public Forum debate, and Congress.

The Tournament of Champions functions as an independent tournament rather than an overarching organization governing high school debate, like the National Forensic League or National Catholic Forensic League. As such, the Tournament of Champions does not directly control the dozens of other national tournaments which occur weekly across the United States. Rather, the Tournament of Champions (or T.O.C.) uses the results of other tournaments to provide the criteria for qualifying to its own event.



The Tournament of Champions was developed by J.W. Patterson, who has since performed the duties of tournament host. Patterson explained the idea, "When I became Director of Debate at the University of Kentucky in 1971, I raised the possibility of hosting a high school debate tournament. Thus, I spent several months exploring this possibility. I asked several questions. First, was there a need for another high school tournament and, if so, what kind? What time of year should it be held and how big should it be?". Indeed, Patterson's experience in coaching high school policy debate at Muskogee Central High School in Oklahoma prior to accepting a position in the Communications Department at the University of Kentucky provoked Patterson to consider creating a new national championship . However, when considering the need for another national championship tournament, he came to the conclusion that the major national tournaments in the early 1970s had three major problems. Patterson explains, "First, debaters overwhelmingly were crying out for flow-sheet judges. Many of them were being trained at institutes to argue before flow judges but most of them said they received very few such judges, either at Catholic or NFL Nationals and almost never at invitational tournaments. Second, both teachers and debaters complained overwhelmingly about the politics involved in high school tournaments. Many said that up to 75% of the time they were either judged by incompetent people or people with a strong political bias.Third, I heard a major complaint from those going to Catholic and NFL Nationals that there was much too much lag time between their district tournaments and NFL" . Thus, Patterson created the tournament with the hope that his competition would redress the major flaws with other national championships like those administered by the National Catholic Forensic League and the National Forensic League.

In its first competition, the 1972 Tournament of Champions was received by highly regarded policy debate teams positively. Patterson explains, "The first TOC was received very well. We had teams from coast to coast. As far as I could tell, there were a few qualified teams who refused to come but most did attend. At that time, most people in the know seemed to think that the top two teams in the country were from Toledo, Ohio, and Milwaukee. These two teams met at the TOC as well as the NFL final the same year" .

Advisory Committee

The Tournament of Champions continued to host the nation's best in policy debate following the 1972 tournament. However, after the first eight tournament, Patterson recognized that the "national circuit" influence of the tournament required that the event adapt. Consequently, Patterson began to formalize a system of "Tournament of Champions Advisory Committees." Patterson said, "After the first few years, I began to realize the importance of seeking high school coaches’ advice on the TOC. Although it was, and still is, a Kentucky invitational tournament, I obviously recognized the importance coaches and debaters place on the TOC. I, therefore, leaned heavily on coaches advice in helping me keep the TOC as a major culminating event" . However, while the influence of the committee in making decisions regarding the administration of the TOC did begin in 1980, official formal committees were not established until 1990 .

Addition of Lincoln-Douglas Debate

Another major development in the Tournament of Champions' structure was the addition of Lincoln Douglas Debate. "LD" first appeared at the National Forensic League National Championship in 1980, but was not included in the T.O.C. until 1986. Despite Patterson's efforts to include the event as early as 1983, strong opposition from the Advisory Committee prevented Patterson from adding Lincoln-Douglas .

Addition of Public Forum Debate

The next event added to annual Tournament of Champions competition was Public Forum Debate. However, unlike Lincoln-Douglas Debate which boasted support by its proponents for inclusion into the Tournament of Champions, Public Forum Debate faced strong opposition against joining T.O.C. competition from supporters and opponents of the event alike. On one hand, Public Forum structurally was created to rectify the "national circuit" idiosyncrasies like jargon and the extreme workload necessary to compete effectively that plagued Lincoln-Douglas and, on a greater scale, policy debate. Thus, as an event meant to be engaging for laypersons and experts on the event alike, the Tournament of Champions, an event celebrating the national circuit culture, seemed incompatible. Despite this argument, Public Forum was included in Tournament of Champions competition in 2005, but took place as a round robin unlike its peer events. In 2007, Public Forum debuted as a full fledged event with a full field and non-round robin pairings. To aid in eliminating the "national circuit" qualities of the competition in Public Forum, the Tournament of Champions utilized lay judges from the University of Kentucky to adjudicate rounds at the 2008 .

Tournament procedure

Elimination procedure

In Lincoln-Douglas debate and policy debate, the TOC employs seven preliminary rounds and clears to octafinals. All entries with a 5-2 record have the opportunity to advance into the outrounds; as such, when more than sixteen entries have a 5-2 record, the Tournament of Champions holds the appropriate number of run-off rounds to determine which of the lower-seeded debaters will advance. For the first three years of its existence, the Public Forum division of the TOC was conducted in a Round Robin format.

Lincoln-Douglas Debate debates the January-February National Forensic League topic. Public Forum Debate debates the April National Forensic League topic. Policy Debate teams debate that season's national high school topic.


Since its inception, the Tournament of Champions has been held on the campus of the University of Kentucky and at other locations in Lexington, Kentucky near the campus. Currently, preliminary rounds of Lincoln-Douglas, Policy, Public Forum, and Congress are held directly at the University of Kentucky. However, after competition on Saturday and Sunday, the tournament moves to a central location to conduct its annual "Breakfast of Champions" ceremony as well as the elimination rounds. Since the 2007 Tournament of Champions, the final day of competition has taken place in conference rooms at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky.

Tournament of Champions Qualifying Tournaments

In order to qualify to the Tournament of Champions, competitors in Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Policy debate, Public Forum Debate, or Student Congress must earn two "bids" at designated qualifying tournaments. "Bids" may be attained by reaching the "bid round" at certain tournaments (for instance, a quarterfinal bid gives bids to the top eight competitors, a finals bid gives bid to the top two competitors), which are given different bid statuses based on the strength, size, and geographic diversity of the tournament . All competitors who have received two bids to the Tournament of Champions may apply using the regular application. Historically, every competitor with at least two bids has been accepted. However, the Tournament of Champions only guarantees that debaters receiving three or more bids will be accepted as it would be mathematically possible for the bid distribution to be so diverse that more debaters with two bids exist than spots available.

In the event that there are fewer than 70 fully qualified entries in an event, the Tournament of Champions then proceeds to admit "at-large applicants." A debater is entitled to consideration as an at-large applicant if he or she has acquired one bid during the season. Following the at-large application process, the T.O.C. Advisory Committee in given the responsibility of ranking the applications, which are then combined to fill the remaining slots for the T.O.C.

2008-2009 Qualifying Tournaments

Lincoln Douglas Debate Qualifying Tournaments.


  • Apple Valley (MN)
  • Berkeley University (CA)
  • Emory University (GA)
  • Glenbrooks (IL)
  • Greenhill (TX)
  • Harvard University (MA)
  • St. Mark's (TX)
  • Stanford (CA) (Pending)


  • Alta (UT)
  • Archer School (CA)
  • Blake (MN)
  • Bronx Science (NY)
  • Crestian Classic (FL)
  • Hendrick Hudson (NY)
  • Lexington (MA)
  • Valley (IA)
  • Yale University (CT)


  • Dowling (IA)
  • Grapevine (TX)
  • Golden Valley (NV)
  • Harker (CA)
  • Iowa Caucus (IA)
  • Monticello (NY)
  • Ohio Valley (KY)
  • UT-Austin (TX)
  • Wake Forest University (NC)
  • Auburn (WA)
  • Columbia (NY)
  • Meadows (NV)
  • Manchester (MA) (Pending)


  • Florida Blue Key (FL)
  • Princeton University (NJ)
  • Whitman University (WA)
  • College Prep (CA)
  • Colleyville (TX)
  • Federal Way (WA)
  • Fullerton (CA) (Pending)
  • Isidore Newman (LA)
  • Memorial-Houston (TX)
  • Omaha West-Side (NE)
  • Newark (NJ)
  • St. James (AL)
  • Vestavia Hills (AL)
  • Winston Churchill (TX)
  • Arizona State (AZ)
  • Carrollton Sacred Heart (FL)
  • University of Southern California (CA)
  • Harvard WestLake (CA)



  • Emory University (GA)
  • Glenbrooks (IL)
  • Greenhill School (TX)
  • Harvard University (MA)
  • Montgomery Bell Academy (TN)
  • St. Mark's School (TX)
  • University of California-Berkeley (CA)


  • Blake (MN)
  • Georgetown Day (DC)
  • Grapevine (TX)
  • Lexington (MA)
  • New Trier (IL)
  • Ohio Valley (KY)
  • Alta (UT)
  • University of Michigan (MI)
  • University of Redlands (CA)
  • University of Southern California (CA)
  • University of Texas at Austin (TX)
  • Wake Forest University (NC)


  • Bronx (NY)
  • Colleyville (TX)
  • Dowling (IA)
  • Golden Desert (NV)
  • Gonzaga (WA)
  • Iowa Caucus (IA)
  • Kansas City Community College (KS)
  • Lakeland (NY)
  • Maine East (IL)
  • Meadows (NV)
  • Houston-Memorial (TX)
  • Stanford (CA)
  • Valley (IA)
  • University of Georgia (GA)
  • Vestavia Hills (AL)


  • Auburn (WA)
  • Carrollton (GA)
  • Florida Blue Key (FL)
  • Fullerton (CA)
  • La Costa Canyon (CA)
  • Long Beach (CA)
  • Marquette (WI)
  • Omaha-Westside (NE)
  • Pennsbury (PA)
  • Samford University (AL)
  • Westminster (GA)
  • Whitman College (WA)


Past LD Debate Championship champions

Past Lincoln Douglas Debate Top Speakers

Since 1992, the top speaker in Lincoln Douglas Debate has received the Walter Alan Ulrich award. The perpetual trophy is named in the memory of a past director of debate at Northern Iowa University and member of the TOC Hall of Distinguished Service who helped shape the theory and practice of value debate.

  • 1992: Josh Sheptow - South Plantation High School (FL)
  • 1993: Jason Baldwin - Vestavia Hills High School (AL)
  • 1995: Jonathan Carr - Saint James School (AL)
  • 1996: Jonathan Carr - Saint James School (AL)
  • 1997: Hetal Doshi - Vestavia Hills High School (AL)
  • 1999: Tom Zimpleman - Valley High School (IA)
  • 2000: Noah Grabowitz - Hendrick Hudson High School (NY)
  • 2001: Tom Pryor - Hopkins High School (MN)
  • 2002: Josh Anderson - Sehome High School (WA)
  • 2003: Satyan Gajwani - Miami Palmetto High School (FL)
  • 2004: Eric Palmer - Howland High School (OH)
  • 2005: David Wolfish - Greenhill School (TX)
  • 2006: Jacob Levi - Berkeley Carroll (NY)
  • 2007: Patrick Diehl - Lynbrook High School (CA)
  • 2008: Daniel Moerner - Los Altos High School (CA)

Past Policy Debate Championship champions and runners up

  • 1972 Marquette - Jeff Clark & Mark Foley; Marquette - Mark Miner & David Dries
  • 1973 Hillsboro - Mary Thomson & Kather Zickert; Upper Arlington - Peter Koeniz & Doug Dougherty
  • 1974 Walter Panas - Denise Gilbert & Larry Falkin; Wilkinsburg - John Tumazos & David Snowball
  • 1975 Cardinal Spellman - Leo Gagion & John Bredehoft; Lakeland - Amy Davidoff & Virginia Raymond
  • 1976 Cardinal Spellman - Leo Gagion & John Bredehoft; Soquel - Ron Aitken & Jeff Lorenzen
  • 1977 Lake Forest (IL) - Karen Albrecht & Hugh Abrams; Robinson - Michael Laurence & Shelly Coleman
  • 1978 Walter Panas - Donna Gilbert & Patrick O'Neill; Bronx High School of Science (NY) - Eric Raps & Matt Mandel
  • 1979 Bronx High School of Science (NY) - Andrew Berman & Herschel Goldfield; Marquette - Jim Boehner & John Barrett
  • 1980 Glenbrook North (IL) - Jeff Wagner & Brad Malis; Bronx High School of Science (NY) - Stuart Weich & Andrew Berman
  • 1981 Glenbrook South (IL) - Jeffrey Wortman & Mark Koulogeorge; Firestone - Alan Gerber & Steve Dist
  • 1982 Oak Park & River Forest (IL) - Todd Martin & Eric Brackett; Glenbrook North (IL) - Peter Braverman & Ken Karas
  • 1983 Oak Park & River Forest (IL) - Macklin Trimnell & C.V. Doherty ;Creighton Prep - Wally Mullin & Don Erfmier
  • 1984 Lake Braddock - Shaun Martin & Mike Green; New Trier (IL) - Laura Michaelis & Moria McDermott
  • 1985 Lake Braddock - Joe Pettit & Mike Green; Marquette - Ed Lynch & Kevin Roe
  • 1986 Albany - Peter Gross & Andrew Schrank; Bishop Guertin (NH) - Pete Klamka & Tim Pramas
  • 1987 Manchester - Sarah Gannett & Zach Leber; Stuyvesant (NY) - Hanna Rosin & David Coleman
  • 1988 Downers Grove South (IL) - Karrie Schwartz & Bill Fick; Bronx High School of Science (NY) - Josh Brumberg & Noah Millman
  • 1989 St. Mark's School (TX) - Steven Sklaver & Jack Stroubie; Richmond Kennedy - Colin Kahl & Todd Cort
  • 1990 Oak Park & River Forest (IL) - Eric Truitt & Brian Ruder; Harvard School - Ara Lovitt & Ahilan Arulanantham
  • 1991 Omaha Westside (NE) - Paul Skiermont & Jason Patil; Georgetown Day School (DC) - Dan Nexon & Rebecca Tushnet
  • 1992 Edgemont (NY) - Jason Feldman & Derek Schaffer; Albuquerque Academy (NM) - Jeremy Pena & Mark Kutny
  • 1993 Isidore Newman School (LA) - Ben Norwood & Taavi Reiss; Brookfield Central (WI) - David Frank & Joshua Heling
  • 1994 Lexington (MA) - Li-Cheng Wang & Steve Lehotsky; Edgemont (NY) - Sanket Bulsara & Chris Lennon
  • 1995 Niles West (IL) - Armands Revelins & George Kouros; Lexington (MA) - Steve Lehotsky & Matt Nichols
  • 1996 Glenbrook North (IL) - Larry Heftman & Adam Hurder; Taylor - Jeff McNabb & Kim Sikora
  • 1997 Caddo Magnet (LA) - Andy Ryan & Kamal Ghali; Greenhill (TX) - Josh Goldberg & Rashad Hussein
  • 1998 Glenbrook South (IL) - Adam Goldstein & Todd Fine; Greenhill (TX) - Caitlin Talmadge & Andrew Bradt
  • 1999: Montgomery Bell Academy (TN) - Raja Gaddipati/Robbie Quinn; Lexington (MA) - Josh Lynn & Yoni Cohen
  • 2000: Greenhill School (TX) - Asher Haig/Jordan Pietzsch; Centerville (OH) - Caleb Liang & Henry Liu
  • 2001: Glenbrook North (IL) - Michael Klinger/Stacey Nathan; Woodward Academy (GA) - Avery Dale and Peter Miller
  • 2002: Pace Academy (GA) - Bob Allen/Brian Smith; St. Mark's (TX) Josh Branson/Michael Martin
  • 2003: The College Preparatory School (CA) - Michael Burshteyn/Eli Anders; Greenhill School (TX) - Maggie Ahn & Saad Hussain
  • 2004: Glenbrook North (IL) - Jake Ziering/Michael Rosecrans; College Preparatory School (CA) - Michael Burshteyn/Eli Anders
  • 2005: Westminster Schools (GA) - Anusha Deshpande/Stephen Weil; Chattahoochee (GA) - Garrett Abelkop/John Warden
  • 2006: Greenhill School (TX) - Mathew Andrews/Stephen Polley; Glenbrook South (IL) - Abe Corrigan/Mima Lazarevic
  • 2007: Glenbrook North (IL) - Matt Fisher/Stephanie Spies; Westminster Schools (GA) - Stephen Weil/Anshu Sathian
  • 2008: Greenhill School (TX) - Nicholas Rogan and Olivia Rogan; Colleyville Heritage(TX) - James Hamraie and Evan Defillipis

Past Policy Debate Top Speakers

  • 1972: Marquette - Jeff Clark, Mark Foley
  • 1973: Hillsboro - Mary Thompson
  • 1974: Woodson - Dave Ottoson
  • 1975: Cardinal Spellman - John Bredehoft
  • 1976: Soquel - Jeff Lorenzen
  • 1977: Lakeland - Patrick Finegan
  • 1978: Soquel - Sandra Seville-Jones
  • 1979: Bronx High School of Science- Herschel Goldfield
  • 1980: University of Detroit - Kevin O'Shea
  • 1981: Maine East - Lenny Gail
  • 1982: Bronx Science - Erik Jaffe
  • 1983: Montgomery Bell Academy - Lyn Robbins
  • 1984: Bronx High School of Science- Stuart Rabin
  • 1985: Lake Braddock - Mike Green
  • 1986: Lexington - Jonathon Bines
  • 1987: Churchill - Michael Tomz
  • 1988: Bronx High School of Science - Noah Millman
  • 1989: Detroit Catholic Central - Omar Guevara
  • 1990: Kinkaid - Jon Brody
  • 1991: Jefferson Science - Stephen Andrews
  • 1992: Pace Academy - Sinan Aral
  • 1993: Brookfield Central - Kunal Arya
  • 1994: Martin Luther King - Dan Fitzmier
  • 1995: Lexington - Steve Lehotsky
  • 1996: Greenhill - Dustin Marshall
  • 1997: Grapevine - David Harkin
  • 1998: East Grand Rapids - Geoff Lundeen
  • 1999: Head Royce - Jake Foster
  • 2000: Pace Academy - Ben Thorpe
  • 2001: St. Thomas Academy - Scott Phillips
  • 2002: Glenbrook North - Reuben Schy
  • 2003: Colleyville Heritage - Justin Murray
  • 2004: Colleyville Heritage - Jason Murray
  • 2005: Montgomery Bell Academy - Tripp Rebrovick
  • 2006: Glenbrook North - Matt Fisher
  • 2007: Westminster Schools- Stephen Weil
  • 2008: Stratford Academy - William Karlson

Past Student Congress Debate Champions

  • 2002: Kristen Soltis - Suncoast (FL)
  • 2003: Josh Swartsel - Lake Highland Prep (FL)
  • 2004: Matt Turetzky - Nova High School (FL)
  • 2005: Matt Cynamon - Nova High School (FL)
  • 2006: Cameron Secord - Brookwood High School (GA)
  • 2007: Michael Educate - Lake Forest High School (IL)
  • 2008: Ben Berkman - Nova High School (FL)

Past PF Debate Championship champions and runners up

  • 2004: Jay M. Robinson HS (NC) - Erin Lopez & Jordan Myers; Nova HS (FL) - Alexandra Wall & Natalia Rigol
  • 2005: Albuquerque Academy (NM) - Hollie Putnam & Heather Campbell; Torrey Pines (CA) - Eric Carino & Ian Hampton
  • 2006: Manchester-Essex (MA) - James Pates & Dan Cellucci; Manchester-Essex (MA) - Ross Cowman & Ryan Swanzey (Co-Champions)
  • 2007: Lexington (MA) - Chrissy Kugel & Garth Goldwater; Durham Academy (NC) - Patrick Toomey & Katherine Buse
  • 2008: North Allegheny (PA) - Naz El-Khatib & Claire Kairys; The Collegiate School (NY) - Charles Giardina & Jonathan Yip

Other awards

Julia Burke award

The Julia Burke Award is presented each year, in memory of Julia Burke, a debater at The College Preparatory School who was killed in a car crash in 1998. The purpose of this award is to recognize a "policy debater who achieves competitive excellence in high school policy debate on the national circuit, and who demonstrates goodness of heart despite the pressures of competition at the highest level." The award is accompanied by a $1000 scholarship and $1000 to donate to the charity of the recipient's choice. Nominations can be submitted by any debater attending the TOC. They are then narrowed to a list of three or four debaters by a selection committee chosen by the Julia Burke foundation. The winner is chosen by a vote of all the attendees and coaches at the TOC.

Past Julia Burke winners

  • 2000: Centerville - Henry Liu
  • 2001: Blake - Maggie Berthiaume
  • 2002: Marquette - Manav Bhatnagar
  • 2003: Tampa Prep - Noah Chestnut
  • 2004: Glenbrook North - Michael Rosecrans
  • 2005: Glenbrook South - Elizabeth Kim
  • 2006: Lexington - Will Sears
  • 2007: Centerville - Eli Jacobs
  • 2008: Colleyville - James Hamraie

Coaches Hall of Fame

The coaches inducted into the Tournament of Champions Coaches Hall of Fame are selected from those program directors who have given of their time and energies in helping to maintain the high competitive standards of the TOC and whose students have distinguished themselves in competition at the TOC. This award, awarded irregularly, does not necessarily mean "Coach of the Year."

  • 1983: Phyllis Barton - Princeton High School (OH)
  • 1984: Richard B. Sodikow - Bronx High School of Science (NY)
  • 1985: Ted Belch - Glenbrook South High School (IL)
  • 1986: Billy Tate - Montgomery Bell Academy (TN)
  • 1987: Vicki Drinnon - Lake Braddock Secondary School (VA)
  • 1992: Jeffrey Wortman - Glenbrook North High School (IL)
  • 1993: Paul Newman - The Kinkaid School (TX)
  • 1993: Alex Pritchard - Greenhill School (TX)
  • 1993: Eric Di Michele - Regis High School (NY)
  • 1994: Daryl Fisher - Isidore Newman School (LA)
  • 1997: Marilee Dukes - Vestavia Hills High School (AL)
  • 1998: Tim Averill - Manchester High School (MA)
  • 2001: Les Phillips - Lexington High School (MA)
  • 2003: Matt Whipple - Glenbrook South High School (IL)
  • 2004: David Baker - St. Mark's School, Dallas (TX)
  • 2005: Pam Cady Wycoff - Apple Valley High School (MN)
  • 2006: Dr. David Glass - Edgemont High School (NY)
  • 2008: Aaron Timmons - Greenhill School (TX)

Tournament of Champions in popular culture

  • The Tournament of Champions was both a prominent subject and setting for the 2007 HBO documentary Resolved. Director Greg Whiteley initially followed the Policy debate team of Sam Iola and Matt Andrews of Highland Park High School throughout their season until their loss in semifinals of the 2005 Tournament of Champions. After the defeat, Whiteley focuses the film's attention on the pursuit of qualifying to the tournament by the Long Beach Jordan team, which presents a kritik in an attempt to be successful and reform debate practices. While the film shifts focus to the Long Beach Jordan pair, it still makes mention near the end of the film that Matt Andrews won the 2006 TOC without losing a ballot, taking first place with a ballot record of 22-0. .

Related information

External links


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