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An Apology To The Ks Debate Community Regarding Dci

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When I was in high school my coach had a unique setup for the tournament we hosted. We had six prelim rounds, but in the last two rounds, the top 16 teams were bracketed. All rounds were direct powermatch. After six rounds we had an awards assembly, passed out medals for 3rd through 8th place and sweeps, then had the top two teams debate the final round on the stage in the auditorium with a panel of usually at least 7 of the best judges. All tournament participants were encouraged to stay and watch finals, and they usually did.

 

I think it would be neat to have the top two teams at DCI debate one more round in the auditorium and for everyone to stay and watch.

 

This may be a lame idea (many teams travel from far away for DCI, the assembly is usually pretty long because everyone gets a medal and there are the coach hall of fame inductions), but just thought I'd toss it out there.

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I want to start this post by saying that I am extremely grateful for all of my experiences in Kansas debate. I truly amazed at both how dedicated the coaches in this state are to making the activity better and at how profoundly it has impacted me as a person. My only motivation for posting this is that I want to make DCI the best structure that it can be, and I want future Kansas debate participants to have experiences as valuable and rewarding as mine. Additionally, I want to congratulate everyone that experienced success at DCI and say that this is not meant to detract from your accomplishments in the slightest.

 

I believe that DCI requires reform.

 

I think that the tournament pool is too large. There are several reasons that I believe this. First is the judging. Due to the unfortunate nature of the calendar, DCI falls on a weekend where virtually every college debater is competing in either California or Texas. This means that the tournament is already strained to bring in quality judging as many schools’ assistants are not with them. While I was certainly satisfied with the judging that I received at DCI, I know that a number of my peers were not. Not to say that every round should be judged by Calum Matheson but from what I have heard there were judges at DCI that evaluated the way that people sounded before substantive issues which I don’t think is what the aim of DCI is. Perhaps I am incorrect about this.

 

Second is tournament quality. No one will deny that there are a lot of very good teams in Kansas. This year has demonstrated that teams in Kansas can run with the best of the best. Nevertheless, I think there is a point where the tournament pool at DCI becomes too diluted. Put frankly, from both my own experience and the reports of peers from several schools, there were more than a number of rounds that took place at DCI that were lopsided. I am positive that the goal of DCI is to make every round competitive, and I believe that this can only be accomplished by diminishing the size of the tournament.

 

Now I will answer the only argument that I have heard so far in favor of a larger tournament which is that the team that got second place only got two octos bids. No one will deny that SME TR is a great team destined for even more success but I would argue that it was more of a fluke that they only ended up with two octos bids and that there are fundamental inconsistencies between regular season results and DCI results that should substantiate some of my claims about the dilution of the judging pool. The following are true:

 

-Only 2/7 teams that were in quarters at KCKCC placed in the top 10 at DCI (KCKCC is arguably the best judged tournament in the state, bar none)

-Only 3/19 NFL qualifiers place in the top 10 at DCI (this includes teams that did not attend DCI)

-BVW MN who is 1 of 3 teams in the state with a TOC bid and cleared at multiple TOC tournaments did not break top 10

-SMS MO who also cleared at multiple TOC tournaments did not break the top 10

 

While individual results do not validate or deny the quality of a tournament, I believe that a smaller tournament can only serve to rectify the current situation and move towards a system that is more consistent with regular season results.

Now, given the current coaches’ move to vote to expand every tournament to 16 bids (I adamantly believe that this vote should have gone the other way to make every tournament 8 bids), it appears that fighting for a smaller tournament is a futile battle. Hence, I still think that a couple things need to change about the tournament.

 

The tournament structure is not conducive to 55+ teams. You cannot hold a tournament of that size without elimination rounds and still declare that someone “won†the tournament. More or less, you cannot have a round robin with over 50 teams. I believe that expanding the tournament to 3 days would adequately address this. It could model a system much like KCKCC where there are 3 rounds Friday, 3 rounds Saturday, doubles and octos Saturday, and the remainder on Sunday. I will answer the only real argument that I have seen against elimination rounds. Mr. Volen has suggested that it is not the same because the community will not be there to congratulate the winners. Several answers: first, the same kind of community celebration can still happen at an award ceremony where speaker awards are handed out. Second, that sort of celebration still happens after the final round; more people stayed for state finals than one might expect. And third, the community inevitably finds results via cross-x which means that everyone still recognizes the winner of the tournament and can congratulate them at another time or through electronic messaging.

 

Lastly, the current MPJ system needs to be revamped. Having 40 1’s, 15 5’s, and 3 6’s is hardly an MPJ system as much as it is an 18 strike system. I guess I am not extremely familiar with how to get MPJ software but if I understand correctly, it can be found online for free. At the very least, I know that Chief runs a very smooth MPJ system at KCKCC that could be employed at DCI. This ensures that teams are judged by the people that they want to judge and enhances everyone’s tournament experience. I also believe that this process should take place before the tournament. Every school should be required to register their judges on a program like Joy of Tournaments so that the preferences can be filled out in advance instead of in 5 minutes. Preferences are a crucial part of tournament strategy and many teams require more time than that to fill them out. (We took 4 hours to fill out our Glenbrooks preferences.)

 

Again, this post is not meant to attack anyone. I am so appreciative of everything that the coaches, judges, and participants of Kansas debate do to make this activity worthwhile.

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Now I will answer the only argument that I have heard so far in favor of a larger tournament which is that the team that got second place only got two octos bids. No one will deny that SME TR is a great team destined for even more success but I would argue that it was more of a fluke that they only ended up with two octos bids and that there are fundamental inconsistencies between regular season results and DCI results that should substantiate some of my claims about the dilution of the judging pool. The following are true:

 

I also think this is partially true because they opted to travel to a couple of TOC tournaments as opposed to debating solely in Kansas tournaments that they, in all honesty, could easily have won.

 

I think the solution to the larger vs. smaller tournament could perhaps be found in the way the NDT qualifiers are sorted out in college. For example, the first (pick a number) entries could be decided on a "first-round" coaches choice similar to the way the application process used to work for DCI. In fact, the "first-rounders" could be determined by traditional DCI bids as they function now. After that, there could be a designated qualifying tournament (either one or several by region, county, etc.) that qualifies (pick a number) additional entries. This checks back for the scenario of a good team not getting two (or ideally three) bids, while still qualifying a specific number of teams.

 

I think this is better for two reasons:

1) Consistency.

The number of teams remains constant year to year. Thus, judging requirements are the same and no matter where you fall on the large vs. small debate, the sample size of the population of Kansas debaters could be controlled for.

2) Checks and Balances

This system allows good teams who have had a bad year to still make it to DCI. For example, Owen and I could have feasibly had 0 bids this year because we went to 3 tournaments outside the state of Kansas. This system would either allow coaches to permit us into DCI, or allow us one final tournament to qualify.

 

It's not perfect, but neither is the current format.

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I agree with nearly everything in Birzer's post.

 

The tournament is too big. However, the vast majority of coaches (so I'm told, I wasn't at the meeting) preferred the SQ over any sort of tournament-shrinking reform. With that conclusion, I think that we need to make several changes to the format to give us more consistent results.

 

With less teams, the 7 round format was ok because there was nowhere to hide. This is no longer the case. With a larger tournament, a team can go through the whole tournament and compile 5 wins, a losing opp-record and finish in the top 5.

 

I think that an example of the problem is this year... If BY would have lost round 7 we would have had 3 6-1 teams and DCI would have been decided by speaker ranks (someone please correct me if I'm wrong)... I don't want DCI to be decided by speaker points. I'd much rather it be decided head to head, in out rounds. I realize that DCI has always been this way on some level, but a larger tournament allows for:

 

a. More 6 win teams.

b. Those 6 win teams to have a wildly different draw.

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I agree with the settiment that DCI has grown too big. Among the people who can change it, I believe the prevailing argument was that change inheriently has risk and thus there has to be major issues to vote for change. It isn't surprising that an old fashion judging paradigm of stock issues was used to deterine the vote. Significance (that the harms were too small to overcome the inherient risk of change) was the voting issue.

 

Keeping DCI as inclusive is a very powerful argument. Basically the idea is the more the merrier. Yes, there were sophomores that weren't as competitive at DCI, but those sophomores learned from the experience and will be better debaters as juniors and seniors because they were included rather than excluded.

 

Personnally, I disagree. I believe the invitationals and the DCI bid tournaments should be inclusive. I believe that is where kids get better. I believe that at some point the true value of seniors educationg sophomores by crushing them in loopsided debates is less important than having more equally balanced rounds of the best versus the best. I think that when the field increases substancially past 32, which how many break to double octos, it starts creating statistical issues in which five directly power matched rounds can't solve.

 

There are minor repairs that would maintain the concepts of the status quo that I believe would get us closer to a balance between inclusion and competitiveness. Requiring 4 wins regardless of tournament size at a bid tournament I believe is a step in the right direction toward reducing the total number of bids awarded. I'd also suggest that the extra bid for finals be removed because I think you should have to do well at two bid tournaments to enter DCI. I don't think these changes will be made. so it is merely academic.

 

I will say I disagree with some of the analysis in this thread. To rate getting a bid at KCKCC or the NFL qualifiers higher than getting a bid at Waru or Topeka is a fallacy. I truly believe that it doesn't matter where or when you got your bid. Some teams go to only two bid tournaments, get their two bids, and then show up for DCI. Some go to every bid tournament to rack up the bids. Some pick and choose based on the style of debate dictated by the judging pool. None of these strategies is wrong, so it becomes irrelevant who got their bids where and at what point in the season.

 

I also disagree with the idea that TOC bids translate to identifying "better" teams in Kansas. This is not an attack on TOC bids. The simple fact is that some squads don't seek out TOC bids so its not an equal metric in the state. To say you did better than me at a tournament that I didn't attend is a fallacy. Among schools who exclusively seek out TOC bids and travel the national circuit, that probably is a fair metric, but it doesn't work here. I won't even go into the issue that TOC bid tournaments have a specific style that doesn't translate to overall "best".

 

I'm split on the MPJ thing. There is a part of me that says show up and debate in front of who ever is willing to take time out of their life to bother listening to you. I think shaping the round to meet you rather than you adapting to the round that you are thrust into is a cop out. I want say, "hey, cowboy up and figure out how to persuade your audience because in life you don't get to pick who you need to persuade." On the flip side as a judge and a coach I get tired of watching or hearing about rounds that weren't competitive because one team fit better with the judge than the other. I think MPJ does help make rounds more competitive and probably more fair. I guess I can take it or leave it.

 

There have now been a couple of posts that have broached the idea of returning to a world of coach's voting. I can not stress this enough that those ideas only work in a world in which there is some agreement among the community on the criteria to vote on. That is ABSOLUTELY not the case in Kansas. There is no concensus on what makes a good debater, and thus the voting is erratic and produces unjust results. Not that I would have a vote, but if I did it makes sense that I would vote for teams that debate similar to the way I coach my teams to debate. To reintroduced subjectivity back into a system that was designed to remove coach's preferences would definately be a large mistake.

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The overwhelming barrier to all of the reform proposals you identify is that the majority of coaches either do not feel that the tournament is too big or are afraid of offending marginal qualifiers and their coaches by taking the position that the tournament is too big.

 

I have no objection to these proposals being discussed in public. But if you're genuinely interested in making them happen, these discussions are best directed towards your own schools' coaches. Until the majority of coaches feel that a smaller DCI is desirable, and are willing to take that stance at the meeting, nothing is going to change.

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The overwhelming barrier to all of the reform proposals you identify is that the majority of coaches either do not feel that the tournament is too big or are afraid of offending marginal qualifiers and their coaches by taking the position that the tournament is too big.

 

I have no objection to these proposals being discussed in public. But if you're genuinely interested in making them happen, these discussions are best directed towards your own schools' coaches. Until the majority of coaches feel that a smaller DCI is desirable, and are willing to take that stance at the meeting, nothing is going to change.

 

How would you feel if some of the graduating seniors expressed some of their concerns in a letter that someone would present at an appropriate DCI meeting (or whatever the forum is for rules?) Just to get this information relayed to the people who don't use cross-x.

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To be completely honest, I don't know that I'd "feel" anything. Nor do I know that any other coaches would.

 

Your best chance of achieving persuasion lies in direct discussion with individual coaches with whom you already have a positive relationship, your own coach in particular. Proposals for reform of DCI that come from outside of the coaching community are likely to run afoul of defensive sentiment. This isn't to say that the coaches don't care what the students think; I don't think I'm saying too much when I indicate that the feelings of the students regarding the size of the tournament were discussed at this year's meeting, and in a respectful manner. Nonetheless, it's important to understand that the coaches value their collective control of the event and its unique nature, and it's best not to create the impression that there's some sort of outside pressure being brought to bear.

 

My advice would be to work incrementally and informally. Individual students should make their feelings known to their own coaches first. Those students and programs who are on the margins of the tournament--who would be excluded if the event were to shrink--have a particular credibility on this issue, and I suspect that their opinions will have exceptional purchase with many of us.

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Tournament is large- which I think is fine but it really needs elimination rounds. 7 round format was great and challenging when it was 20 teams.

 

The high-high power match round 7 can be punishing.

 

I say 7 rounds and break to octa-finals or quarters on Sunday. Hold the tournament in Wichita or someplace more centrally located every year.

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