Baylor Debate Team Makes Strong Showing at National Debate Tournament

News Photo 4872
Front (L to R): Dustin Greenwalt, graduate assistant coach; Amanda Luppes, senior; John Cook, junior; Alex McVey, senior; Nick Denissen, volunteer coach. Back (L to R): Zack Wagner, graduate assistant coach; Chris Rooney, senior; Dr. Matt Gerber, director of Baylor debate; Dr. Scott Varda, associate director of Baylor debate.
April 22, 2010

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Members of Baylor University's nationally ranked debate team recently made a strong showing at the National Debate Tournament, held at the University of California, Berkeley, at the end of March. Baylor's top two individual debate teams each advanced to the elimination rounds at the prestigious, invitation-only tournament.

The Baylor team of Chris Rooney, a senior speech communications major from Round Rock, and Amanda Luppes, a senior international studies major from Apple Valley, Minn., emerged from eight preliminary debates with a 5-3 record, posting wins over Trinity, Whitman, UNLV, West Georgia and a Kentucky team that later advanced to the Elite Eight.

The Baylor team of John Cook, a junior international studies major from Winfield, Kan., and Alex McVey, a senior Spanish and international studies major from Olathe, Kan., also posted a 5-3 record in the preliminary rounds, defeating teams from Berkeley, Emory, Kentucky, Wichita State and Towson State. The team of Cook and McVey also advanced to the "Sweet 16" of the CEDA National Tournament, held at Berkeley a week later. The CEDA tournament is an "open-entry" event, and was attended by more than 220 college debate teams.

The Baylor team's performance at the NDT was the university's best showing at the tournament since 1997, when the team advanced to the Final Four under the direction of Dr. Karla Leeper, who now serves as chief of staff to the president at Baylor. In addition, Baylor found itself in elite company, as one of only four debate programs to be represented by two teams in the elimination rounds.

"This performance really cements Baylor's place in the top echelon of intercollegiate debate," said Dr. Matt Gerber, who has directed the Glenn R. Capp Debate Forum at Baylor since 2003. "When you consider that only Baylor, Kansas, Emory and Northwestern were represented by two teams in the elimination rounds at the National Debate Tournament, that is a big deal."

Kansas and Emory have won two of the past three national titles, while Northwestern - which was coached by the late Baylor graduate Scott Deatherage - has taken home seven championships over the past 15 years.

Gerber credits the hard work of the team and coaching staff for the recent victories. Baylor's debaters typically spend upwards of 40 hours per week researching and preparing for travel to debate tournaments.

"The level of competition is so intense that hard work and dedication is a requirement for success," said Dr. Scott Varda, associate director of the Baylor debate program since 2007.

Baylor also is one of only three other college debate programs in the country with two full-time tenure-track professors dedicated to coaching debate.

"We are blessed with very strong institutional and alumni support here at Baylor," Varda said.

The tradition of debate at Baylor dates back to 1857. Baylor has won three national championships (1975, 1987, 1989) and appeared in nine Final Fours since the inception of the "'modern" era of college debate in 1947.

For more information about Baylor's Glenn R. Capp Debate Forum, go to

Media contact: Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, (254) 710-6275

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