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The Greatest Teams In The History Of Kansas Debate (Old Timers, Get In Here)

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Here are the teams that I would put into the conversation.

 

In chronological order:

 

Mike Gottlieb and Chris Fransisco, Lawrence '95

Accomplishments: 1 (or possibly 2?) top 10 finishes at NFL Nationals, 2spk State Champion

Notes: This team doesn't quite have the accomplishments of some of the teams to follow, but part of that could be attributed to the fact that they were contemporaries with another team on this list. That said, this team certainly passed the eyball test, they would have been dominant in any era. Perhaps the biggest factor that puts them on this list is Gottlieb's college success. Mike Gottlieb (at Northwestern) went on to become arguably the greatest college debater of all time (2x NDT Champ, 2x NDT Top Speaker, Copeland Award). To put this in perspective for the younger folks; if debate was a video game, Mike Gottlieb would be the final boss... Oh, and he also went on to become President Obama's lawyer.

 

Amir Sufi and Lisa Hyten Washburn Rural '95

Accomplishments: 2x DCI Champs, 4th place at NFL Nationals

Notes: The first ever 2x DCI champion. Extremely talented team. I happened to be one of the few fortunate souls who got to witness a Sufi/Hyten vs Gottlieb/Fransisco debate.... And yes, It was epic.

 

Ben Walker and Courtney Nunns Hutchinson '97

Accomplishments: 5th place at NFL Nationals TWICE, 5th place at CFL Nationals, 3rd place at CFL Nationals, 2spk State Champion

Notes: One of few (possibly only?) to qualify for NFL Nationals 3 times as a team. 4 Quarterfinal or better performances at national tournaments. This team's consistency makes them a strong contender for GOAT. The argument against them would be that they never finished better than 3rd at DCI, and that they were eliminated at NFL Nationals their senior year by the next team on this list.

 

Rohan Radikrishna and Neel Ahuja Washburn Rural '98

Accomplishments: 3rd place at NFL Nationals, 5th? place at NFL Nationals, 2 spk State Champions

Notes: Extremely talented team in a very deep era of KS debate. I'd venture to guess that their 3rd place finish at NFL their junior year (where they eliminated Walker/Nunns) has the distinction of being the deepest a KS team ever made it undefeated at NFL, also the latest 2 KS teams ever hit.

 

Andrew Baker and Sarah Weiner Shawnee Mission West '07

Accomplishments: NFL Finalist in '07

Notes: One of 2 teams teams to ever debate in the finals of NFL (in the modern era). Weiner went on to win DCI with a different partner. Both went on to have extremely successful college debate careers.

 

Alex Parkinson and Jessie Egan Olathe Northwest '07

Accomplishments: 2x DCI Champions, 2spk State Champion, Top 10 finish at NFL, Qualified and participated in the TOC

Notes: One of two 2x DCI champs. One of the few Kansas teams to ever participate in the TOC.

 

That's my list, it is by no means definitive. There could be many that I'm forgetting or just don't have information about. I'd do honorable mentions, but it becomes very difficult to separate teams at a certain point. One that I will mention is Rory Petty from Washburn Rural who I believe had 2 top 10 NFL finishes with 2 different partners (Basit Mustafah and Beth Shepker).

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Thanks for the list, it was an interesting read. This got me to wondering about the style of debate during the mid-nineties and how that compares to today. Sorry if this sounds ignorant of how debate used to be, but for example was spreading as prominent, or critical arguments? What do you think has been the biggest evolution in Kansas debate from that time period to today?

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Good list. Some additional data and a couple of suggestions for added teams:

 

-Gottlieb and Francisco were indeed in the top 10 at NFL Nationals twice. The kicker on this accomplishment for me is that Lawrence HS was a three year high school--so they were top 10 in their second year as debaters.

 

-Either WaRu AR or WaRu HS were the only Kansas team to be last undefeated at nats; I don't remember which.

 

-Don't forget that Olathe NW EP were top ten at NFL Nats as juniors. In 2007, ONW EP didn't qualify to nationals and Kansas STILL put three teams on stage; one of the great "what ifs" in the state's history asks what might have happened if they'd been in the field alongside the rest. Of the Kansas teams that competed at the TOC, they had the best record at 3-3.

 

Two more NFL National finalists: Topeka High Katherine Menendez/David Kensinger 1989; Shawnee Mission West Holly Bartling/Steve Dvorske 1985. Bartling and Dvorske came closer to winning a title than any Kansas team, losing to GBN by a single ballot, and there are coaches around who will still say some very angry things about that decision if you ask them.

 

My list would also include Taylor Nichols and Josh Dean, who as juniors and seniors were as dominant within the state as any of the above-listed teams, and pulled down 2nd and 3rd speaker at NFL as well.

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I can speak to the late 80s and early 90s, albeit only from my own perspective as a competitor and as an assistant coach.

 

The kritik was effectively introduced into debate by Bill Shanahan's Texas teams at the UNI season-opener in Fall 1991, so I would say arguments of that sort didn't really penetrate to Kansas until later in the decade. I would say that spreading was more tactical in that era--for a portion of the time period we're talking about, rebuttals were still four minutes long, so it wasn't so much in the interest of the aff to get out lots of offense in the 1AC--they had to make strategic decisions about what to include from the very beginning. "New in the 2" was less frowned on as well, so there was a real incentive for the negative block to make the 1ARs life as difficult as possible.

 

I think the other major difference is that it was more possible even in what were then "contemporary" rounds for the negative team to win with defense. As solvency had more utility, counterplans had less--with other means of reducing the advantage in play, it was less important to moot it with a CP. I also recall the topical CP being frowned upon even at the elite levels.

 

Arguments that were less ubiquitous early in the decade include heg--we probably WERE the hegemon as early as 1989, but nobody was really contemplating alternatives to it. "Debate bad" arguments were made in a famous New Republic essay of that decade but were generally laughed at by the community. China was still gearing up as an economic power; I remember Russian nationalism being the big bogeyman of choice, as the situation there under Yeltsin was very unstable and power cards were being written about a lot of specific figures with a lot of very weird agendas. Population malthus had a lot more currency as an argument in that era than in this; there were also some proto-kritiks flitting about in DA form, notably Ophuls "rights malthus" argument, the original Mary Ann Glendon "rights talk" variant, and DAs speculating on the effects of the plan on the environmental and feminist movements. Politics DAs were less about specific agenda items and political capital and more about elections and the ability of factions to use the plan to build a power base; in fact, it was none other than the aforementioned Mike Gottlieb at Northwestern who many credit as the pioneer of the approach to politics DAs that predominates today.

 

But that's just how I remember it, and I only saw so many rounds. Curious as to how Fowler and others saw things.

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Thanks for the list, it was an interesting read. This got me to wondering about the style of debate during the mid-nineties and how that compares to today. Sorry if this sounds ignorant of how debate used to be, but for example was spreading as prominent, or critical arguments? What do you think has been the biggest evolution in Kansas debate from that time period to today?

 

Let me add my thoughts about the mid/late 90s (I graduated in '97).

 

Stylistically, debate was very similar. Teams then were every bit as fast (or faster) than the teams today. Argument wise, also very similar... Heg, politics, and most of the big impacts that are debated today were debated then (Some with the same evidence... Khalizad, Mead etc). The biggest difference is Kritiks and CPs, CPs have always been around but you were much less likely to hear one in 1996 than you are to hear one today. CP competition is something that wasn't quite fleshed out, you were much more likely to see some sort of lame utoptian CP like Anarchy or Ban Nukes than you would to see any sort of PIC. The States CP was pretty big, that argument started in 93-94 on the Health Care topic... The States CP also came back big in 1997 on the Juvenile Crime topic. The States CP had such an impact on the competitive balance of debate, that the college circuit still to this day picks topics to purposely avoid it. So have fun with that this year.

 

I'd point to about 1998 when Kritiks became somewhat popular, they were very sparsely debated before then but that is the year that they became something that you'd have to prepare for. Early Kritiks were pretty rudimentary, even at the time on the college circuit. The most common K arguments were Heiddegger, Statism, Sexist Language, Threat Con, etc. Kritiks didn't have an alt, it was likely that the Neg's spin would be some sort of "in round" impact. "Framework" wasn't a thing, we called it "wrong forum" and those types of arguments were not quite as developed and structured as they are today.

 

Judging in the mid-late 90s was also very similar to today. A true "stock issues" judge was as rare then as it is now. The Offense/Defense paradigm is something that wasn't around then, as I think it started in the mid 00s... But judges then judged very similar for the most part.

 

Overall, I'd say that if you walked into a round in 1998 (where there wasn't a K or a CP in the round) it would sound pretty much the same as today. Over time, stylistic trends come and go... a perfect example was last year where I saw a case debate in almost every debate I judged, but just 3-4 years ago case debate was very rare.

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Some other differences in mid/late 90s debate:

 

1. Evidence production. The internet didn't become a viable thing for debate research until the very late 90s. Before then, we had research trips to KU and K-State (for lexis access). Teams that lived geographically close to Manhattan or Lawrence had a competitive advantage. My school would sometimes go up a day early to hit one of these libraries.

 

2. While stylistically similar, there were some differences. I'd point to about 1995 as to when "no new in the 2" became the norm. Also, debaters then focused much more on structure. The flow was kept much cleaner. Teams would sacrifice efficiency for clarity.... these are things we should learn from the past.

 

3. I'm not sure when the speech time change happened, but the speech times were the same in 1993 as they are today. Also, when I started we were in full on rubbermaid tub mode. I heard tales of people still using the suitcases full of notcards just a few years before I started.

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Gottlieb also was one of a select few to win the NDT triple crown, being the number one ranked team going into the NDT (Copeland Award), win the tournament and be top speaker. Many years later he is still talked about by the college community as one of the best ever.

 

I can't really speak to teams that had great NFL tournaments (I didn't follow that very well). I can tell you that these are the teams that I was worried about going into any tournament (not an exclusive list, I apologize for not having an extensive list).

 

Hutchinson Nathan Walker & ?? (2001)

Hutch Micheal Bretches & ?? (2003)

Hutch Micheal Richardson & ?? (2002)

 

BVN Matt Reedy & ? Goldman (2002) This team actually lost some absurdly low number of prelim rounds and went on a streak of wins that I remember being talked about as unprecedented at the time. This team also was really good at adapting. Back in this era there was a traditional varisity division and a champ division that consisted of only (supposed to be) high speed high flow rounds.

 

SME - Eric Sunni & ? Arridinger (2002) -- This team was rumored to be one of the first to qualify for the TOC out of kansas.

SME- Nye & Stintson (2002)

SME- Scott Peirson & ?? (2002)

 

Salina Central- Megan Blick & ? ? (2002)-- Up until that point I remember Blick being the fastest debater I'd ever seen.

 

And here is my list of good manhattan teams that I can remember

Hall & Fridell (sometimes me) 2002- Brad had a decent High School career (no great NFL runs), and ended up being 2nd at the NDT and 3 time 1st round winner in college while at Wake.

 

Nate Johnson & Jin Lee (2004?)- Won State, Nate went on to win the NDT with Brett Bricker at KU.

 

Here are some names but I forget who they debated with, it was a long time ago. All I know is part of this group closed out WARU champ division in 2000 in sems.

Jason Gill, JoJo Longbottom, Lilly ?, Irene ?, I know there are others I'm forgetting.

 

 

The Class of 02 was also the ones who did the 2nd or 3rd annual "Kansas Best". I know some of those predictions ended up being correct about the class of 02. Like I became a Coach, Hall, Sunni, Richardson and I all qualified and went to the NDT. Suni, Hall, Richardson all cleared at the NDT.

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John Culver at SMNW(??)in early 1980's and forgot who he debated went on to do very well in NDT and was at least 2nd top speaker. Culver was also national runner up in Extemp at NFL.

 

Milligan and Bullock- T-High very good Kansas team. They would bring a suitcase carrier full of briefcases and just destroy you.

 

James McKown- Great Bend and I forgot who his partner was were outstanding. Great Bend coach Specht was a legend.

 

Chris Kobach, current Sec of State of Kansas, was very good and I think his partner was Mendenhall at WaRu won DCI (I think)

 

Bobby Bradley and Marty Aaron of Wichita East didn't drop an affirmative ballot with Creationism written by Dan Beck.

 

In the 80's I don't think you had as many NFL districts so getting to NFL was really tough.

 

John Culver was the best debater of my era and he was amazing in front of any kind of judge, he also had a great college career. I think Ideen is probably a better debater than Culver and I think BVW BS would beat/kill any of the teams from my era. I think Manhattan PW and Buhler BS and WaRu would have had similar success in the 80's. The kids I judge today are just smarter and work so much more effectively.

 

Culver partnered with Kelly Milligan at camp and I would favor Ideen/Chris over that team by 6/5 but it would be an incredible round it could go either way. I actually think Chris is probably better than Kelly but Milligan's word economy and cleverness would keep the decision very close.

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Nate Johnson and Alex Parkinson were great high school debaters as well.

One of my favorite teams of the recent era were the Kennedy's from SME.

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I judged a debate between Hajir Ardebili and ?? vs Sufi and Hyten in elims at Emporia in 94ish I believe. Sufi and Hyten definitely one of the best teams ever and Ardebili was awesome! He of course went on to great success at KU.

 

Class of 95 also should include Emporia Sarah Glaser and Emily Owens. Perhaps biased since I was a rule-10 coach for them at the time, but very good and they were the other team to qual to NFL out of Flint Hills that year along with Sufi/Hyten and Gottlieb/Francisco. That NFL qualifier was at Lawrence and was a blood bath like none other! Home field advantage for Gottlieb/Franciso and they came within a ballot in rd 3 of being eliminated!! They fought through. That NFL qualifier also included other great Lawrence teams, T-High, and an especially good Topeka West team. One of the toughest NFL's I've ever been a part of. Sarah and Emily both went on to successful college careers at K-State and Michigan State respectively. One of the most memorable 2-female teams in terms of success and given the serious stereotypes about all female teams in HS, especially back then, they get an extra nod in my book! Sarah helps run the women's debate institute and sits on their Board of Directors. It provides a tuition free camp with the purpose if increasing the number of women in debate! http://womensdebateinstitute.org/ and http://www.facebook.com/womensdebateinstitute

 

chief

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As far as female/female teams my list would be:

 

Erin McLain/Grace Lee Hutchinson '98 - This team was IMO one of the best ever/most underrated. They didn't have the success at Nationals (I think they ended up top 10 at CFL), but they only lost 5-6 rounds all year in 98 (which was an incredibly deep and talented year). Grace Lee holds the title of fastest high school debater I've ever seen... she would melt your goddamn face. She was clear as a bell, but almost unflowable due to sheer speed.

 

Melanie Campbell/Leigha Empson (sp?) SMW '09 (I think) - The first team to make the finals of CFL. My memory is failing me, but I'm pretty sure that they also won DCI that year.

 

Lucy Orsi/?? Redler Wichita East '11 - First f/f team to lead in bids and win DCI in the bid era. They also won 2 spk State and were top 10ish at NFL.

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Hutchinson Nathan Walker & ?? (2001) Kyle Kimpler

Hutch Micheal Bretches & ?? (2003) Scott Smith

Hutch Micheal Richardson & ?? (2002) Ashley??? I'm blanking

 

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As far as female/female teams my list would be:

 

Erin McLain/Grace Lee Hutchinson '98 - This team was IMO one of the best ever/most underrated. They didn't have the success at Nationals (I think they ended up top 10 at CFL), but they only lost 5-6 rounds all year in 98 (which was an incredibly deep and talented year). Grace Lee holds the title of fastest high school debater I've ever seen... she would melt your goddamn face. She was clear as a bell, but almost unflowable due to sheer speed.

 

Melanie Campbell/Leigha Empson (sp?) SMW '09 (I think) - The first team to make the finals of CFL. My memory is failing me, but I'm pretty sure that they also won DCI that year.

 

Lucy Orsi/?? Redler Wichita East '11 - First f/f team to lead in bids and win DCI in the bid era. They also won 2 spk State and were top 10ish at NFL.

 

Linda Pei/Peg Wefald, Manhattan '12, with the most single season bids should definitely be included here

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Linda Pei/Peg Wefald, Manhattan '12, with the most single season bids should definitely be included here

 

Absolutely. The reminded me a lot of McLain/Lee in the way that they had a dominant season in a year with several really excellent teams.

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Thread participants: the "legends" section of the Ad Astra website was intended to provide a permanent memorial to the accomplishments of Kansas' elite debate and forensics competitors. If any of you want to turn these commentaries into posts in that forum, nobody would be better pleased than I.

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Culver debated with Kevin Briscoe, who was my director of debate when I coached at Yorktown High School in Virginia. I believe that they placed in the deep elims at NFL their senior year...but I'm hazy on that history. (Kevin did HI as well).

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I have a question for Steve or Tim or others older than me. I know that speed started in college around 1970, but when did it start to permeate Kansas? It had certainly arrived by 1993, I've always been curious as to when it started. Anyone have any idea who the first team was that "broke the sound barrier"?

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Prior to 1986, certainly. The NFL finals were relatively fast even in the late 1970s, so it can't have been much later than that.

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1982 T-high was probably the best tournament we went to and I got smoked by a team in the first round from Lee Summit and they were fast. You knew the game was changing. I bet the Shawnee Mission schools were going fast in the early 80s but the southern part of the state trailed.

 

Another good tournament was El Dorado TOC and the semi finals were the aforementioned Culver/Briscoe v Milligan/??? That round was very fast and it had a great panel so I think the good teams were going fast about that time period. Greatest thing about that round was Culver wore an orange hunting hat all through the round ( way pre-hipster). The speed of that round was fast but not Linda Pei, Collen Steffen or Omac fast.

 

Darren McAttee/Jan Holliday (Great Bend) were probably the fastest team in the south central part of the state around 82-84. Manhattan's Ofray Hall was extremely fast around that time. He debated for KU after high school.

 

Hutch had a dynasty going and they never went fast in the 80's but they knew how to influence judges and pick up ballots. I still dislike navy blue blazers. Hutch Trinity had a great debater in Greg Dinges, not fast but could talk his way out of anything.

 

Chief was ungodly fast and that was mid 90's probably. Chief won numerous top speaker awards in college even after his career took top speaks at the Heart of America.

 

Lynn Miller(current Kapaun coach) was the fastest on our team and his partner was also fast but they couldn't pull a parental ballot if their life depended on it. Lynn got a lot better later in his career and earned a DCI bid which was rare for Wichita Southeast in that era.

 

This is a fun thread as it has allowed me to think fondly of my high school debate career. What a great time I have had in this activity and I still owe it a ton. I wish we had some of the tools that are currently available and could have debated the current style but I wouldn't have traded my participation for anything.

 

Kansas debate is fantastic and continues to improve. Performance at nationals is impressive as well as the amount of successful college debaters it fuels. If you have recently graduated or nearing graduation I encourage up to give back and judge. I would have loved to debate in front of a Stenger or Dmag or Bricker but those kind of judges were not prevalent in my era. Everybody benefits when former debaters judge.

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This was a great blast from the past. Thanks everyone for contributing.

 

While I don't think they have the national tournament cred of even some of their own teammates (Rohan and Neal). John Allshouse and Dave Almling (sp?) where, in my mind, one of the best debate team of the late 1990's. They ran away with DCI as seniors. Because technically they were absolutely great debaters, you could not mess up a bit and still win. A couple years before that Josh Davis and Scott Ferree from McPherson were also great.

 

It was for sure a great time to grow up as a high school debater in Kansas.

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Hutchinson has a proud tradition. In my era those guys were articulate, polite, attractive and well dressed. They did good in debate and i.e. They ran two great tournaments that were overnights and gave us all the opportunity to stay at the Holidome. It was paradise in south central Kansas. Our coach coveted the "Salt Talks" sweepstakes trophy as no other. We kept that salt lick in the debate room forever.

 

I think Kelly Thompson is a great coach and produces good teams every year, he seems to be in a good spot with the Hutch program. Tom Fowler is dynamite and it would seem that program is on solid footing for the future.

 

You want to talk about strong female debaters I would think Katelin Morey would be in that discussion.

 

How many coaches did Hutchinson have between Richard Young and Kelly Thompson?

 

In my era, I don't think the debaters had a strong national run but I debated against two of the Young kids and they had some good success. Greg Ash was a solid debater and is managing partner of a huge law firm in KC. His partner was Cindy Ewy who debated in college at Bethel. Jim Hunington and Brent Zerger were two good debaters as well who were in many an out round.

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Brad Young of Hutchinson ('83?) would be on the short list of great Kansas debate/forensics competitors: national champion in Congress, national NFL point leader by a substantial margin as a senior. I'll also make the case for Hutch's Eric Switzer, who was a two-time 6A state champion and an NFL finalist in Extemp. Nunns and Walker are probably the top of the list for the Salt Hawks, though. Did you know that Courtney Nunns still teaches English at Olathe North? Hutch also had a team in the NFL National Final at some point in the 1930s; there are still only three schools in Kansas that can make that claim.

 

Richard Young, I have been told, won more state championships than any coach in Kansas. He is the only coach in the history of the state (and very possibly the nation) to qualify debate teams to NFL Nationals from five different schools, and is the only Kansas coach to have qualified a team to nationals from a 1A high school.

 

I've often wished that we had records of teams from prior to the dawn of the DCI era. Even the early 80s is largely apocryphal, and most of what was achieved prior to then is a matter of rumor.

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John Culver at SMNW(??)in early 1980's and forgot who he debated went on to do very well in NDT and was at least 2nd top speaker. Culver was also national runner up in Extemp at NFL.

 

Milligan and Bullock- T-High very good Kansas team. They would bring a suitcase carrier full of briefcases and just destroy you.

 

James McKown- Great Bend and I forgot who his partner was were outstanding. Great Bend coach Specht was a legend.

 

Chris Kobach, current Sec of State of Kansas, was very good and I think his partner was Mendenhall at WaRu won DCI (I think)

 

Bobby Bradley and Marty Aaron of Wichita East didn't drop an affirmative ballot with Creationism written by Dan Beck.

 

In the 80's I don't think you had as many NFL districts so getting to NFL was really tough.

 

John Culver was the best debater of my era and he was amazing in front of any kind of judge, he also had a great college career. I think Ideen is probably a better debater than Culver and I think BVW BS would beat/kill any of the teams from my era. I think Manhattan PW and Buhler BS and WaRu would have had similar success in the 80's. The kids I judge today are just smarter and work so much more effectively.

 

Culver partnered with Kelly Milligan at camp and I would favor Ideen/Chris over that team by 6/5 but it would be an incredible round it could go either way. I actually think Chris is probably better than Kelly but Milligan's word economy and cleverness would keep the decision very close.

 

Culver was also national champion in extemp in 1983 he finished runner-up earlier in his career. Having seen both Culver and Ideen debate in prime I think the point is debatable by only a few who have that experience. Since I went to school with him my vote would be biased. I have heard coaches from outside of Kansas say Culver was the best ever at extemp. IF Bill Davis is honest he will admit to going crazy trying to beat him.

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