Campus News

UK Takes National Championship — in Debate

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UK Debate Team
UK Debate Team

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 29, 2019) — Kentucky Men’s Basketball wasn’t the only team competing for the National Championship this past week.

Earlier this week the University of Kentucky Debate Team of Dan Bannister and Anthony Trufanov defeated the University of Georgia to become the 2019 National Debate Tournament (NDT) champions. And they did it in record-breaking style.

The debate program, directed by David Arnett, is housed in the UK College of Communication and Information.

The NDT was hosted by the University of Minnesota. UK Debate Team members Dan Bannister and Anthony Trufanov and Jacinda Rivas and Genevieve Hackman traveled to Minneapolis for the four-day event. They were joined by 76 other teams from across the country. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of my students who believed in themselves and the team. They made the impossible possible,” Arnett said. “We could not have accomplished what we did without the support of the university, and I just want to thank everyone who stands up for the importance of debate. In an activity dominated by private institutions and ivy league schools, I think this sends a message that UK can stand with the best of them.”

“Over the course of eight highly competitive preliminary debates, each judged by three judges, Anthony and Dan won all 24 ballots," said Dallas Perkins, chair of the NDT Committee and longtime Harvard University debate coach. "This has only been accomplished three times before in the 73-year history of the NDT. In the even tougher elimination rounds, they won four consecutive debates, and 18 out of 20 total ballots. Never before had a team won 18 of 20 ballots on their way to winning the tournament. This is truly one for the record books.”

This is the second win at the NDT for UK and the first in 33 years. The previous winning team was Ouita Michel and David Brownell in 1986.

“To win the tournament, we had to debate for about four days straight, beginning at 8 a.m. every morning and often ending after 9 p.m. every night,” Bannister, a political science junior from St. Paul, Minnesota, said. “It feels great to win! This has been one of my goals for a really long time, and to win feels like vindication for all the time I’ve spent in this activity.”

Like Bannister, Trufanov is also a political science major. The senior, from Northbrook, Illinois, is also majoring in Russian studies and is part of Lewis Honors College.

To make it to the final round with Georgia UK had to defeat some of the best teams in the country such as Northwestern, Cornell, Berkeley, Michigan and Kansas.

“The UK debate team’s success reflects the transformative education we provide at the University of Kentucky,” said UK Provost David W. Blackwell. “We prepare our students to compete on the national stage and to go on to pursue meaningful, purpose-driven careers. We are incredibly proud of these students, and I know the UK family will continue to root for their success.”  

Along with winning the NDT the UK debate team won the Rex Copeland Award. The Copeland goes to the team with the best season-long performance. UK was ranked No. 1 among 16 teams and had an automatic bid to the NDT.

“We are honored to have such talented debaters and coaches at the University of Kentucky, and we are proud of the amazing accomplishments of Dan Bannister and Anthony Trufanov," Derek Lane, interim dean of the College of Communication and information, said. "Congratulations to Dan and Anthony for winning the 2019 NDT tournament and for winning the Copeland award. Very impressive!” 

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion two years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. The Chronicle of Higher Education judged us a “Great College to Work for,”  and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for three straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.