Campus News

Debate Team Has Historic Spring Semester, Competes This Week at Nationals

LEXINGTON, Ky. (April 2, 2013) ― The University of Kentucky Debate Team started off their spring semester of competition with a historic finish at two back-to-back tournaments in California during the month of January. Students are competing this week in the 2013 National Debate Tournament (NDT).

It has been five years since a team from Kentucky made it to the elimination rounds at both winter break national college policy debate tournaments, hosted by University of Southern California and Cal State-Fullerton.  UK is represented by two teams: Marcel Roman and Donnie Grasse, both from Chicago, Ill. comprise one team, and Jonathan Geldof from Clarksville, Md. and Margaret Strong from Chicago, Ill. comprise the other.  All four students are currently freshmen.

In February, the team headed to the Southeast regional qualifier for the National Debate Tournament, hosted by the University of Georgia.  UK Director of Debate Andrea Reed was named the Coach of the Year for the Southeast Region, selected by her fellow coaches in the region.  Reed also assisted with tabulating the tournament as service to the community. 

Reed said, “The online record keeping by the debate community is not perfect, but we are pretty sure it has been at least a decade since any university, let alone UK, has had two teams comprised entirely of freshmen clear at the winter break tournaments, which the community affectionately calls the 'California Swing.'” 

These tournaments field the best intercollegiate policy debate teams in the country, including Harvard, Georgetown, Northwestern and Michigan.

In March, both UK Debate Team pairings received at-large bids to compete at the National Debate Tournament, the most prestigious national championship in college debate, equivalent to the NCAA tournament for collegiate athletics.  This is the first year since 2007 that UK has fielded two teams at the NDT and the first time that any university has fielded two teams entirely composed of freshmen at the National Debate Tournament since the 1993 season.  Reed said the debate students have worked extremely hard over the past year to earn this accolade. 

"It takes hundreds of hours of research by all of the UK team members to prepare for the final debates of the season," Reed said.

The two teams fielded by UK will compete against the 78 best teams in the nation this week at the NDT, hosted by Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.  All 78 teams will debate in eight preliminary debates, attempting to earn enough wins to qualify them for the elimination rounds.  Only teams with a 5-3 or better win-loss record will qualify to be seeded in the elimination round bracket.

Want to follow along with the UK Debate Team as they compete at Nationals?  ‘Like’ the UK Debate Facebook page by visiting