The National Debate Tournament began at the United States Military Academy
in 1947. It was organized and conducted by the academy at West Point
for its first twenty years.
rules were determined by the West Point Administration in consultation
with such debate coaches as A. Craig Baird of the University of Iowa,
G. M. Musgrave of Des Moines, Alan Nichols of USC, E. R. Nichols of
the University of Redlands, and Joseph O'Brien of Pennsylvania State
At the first tournament
in 1947, twenty-nine colleges participated in five "seeding" rounds
and four elimination rounds over a three day period. Some of the features
of the tournament were that no school would meet a school within five
hundred miles of itself during the seeding rounds and that no coach
would judge a school from his or her own district.
were started at West Point that year, some of which still remain today:
the "big board", oral announcement of round pairings, cadet escorts
for each team, teams for each debate meeting under the banner of the
affirmative team, and team signs in the rooms.
In 1967, the National
Debate Tournament entered a new era as the American Forensic Association,
the national professional organization of forensics educators, assumed
responsibility for the tournament. The NDT was moved from West Point
and has been hosted by a different school every year since, although
three schools (State University of West Georgia, Miami University of
Ohio, the University of Utah) have hosted it twice. Control of the tournament
became the responsibility of a national committee elected by those schools
supporting the tournament.
As debate has developed
in recent years other refinements have been added to the tournament:
the ten-minute preparation time rule, elaborate procedures for assigning
judges, judge qualifications and published critiques of the final debate.
Over the years,
the tournament has expanded in size, with various procedures used for
selecting the participants. I n the early days, teams were chosen by
district nominating committees. This method was replaced by some form
of qualifying tournaments in most districts. For the first twenty years
of NDT competition the tournament host and previous year's winner received
automatic invitations. Post-district at-large bids were initiated in
1968 and pre-district bids in 1971. Since 1970, it has been possible
for a school to qualify as many as two teams for the NDT. This year
seventy-four teams participated in the NDT. Beginning in 1992, up to
six schools can qualify a third team.
The National Debate
Tournament is sponsored by the American Forensic Association . The NDT is also indebted to Mr. Sigurd
S. Larmon (1891-1987) for donating the rotating Larmon Trophy, emblematic
of the national debate championship; to Mr. and Mrs. George Walker for
donating the rotating second-place Walker Memorial Trophy in memory
of their son; to Mr. Robert Feldhake, top speaker in the 1976 NDT and
now an attorney in Los Angeles for donating the Wayne Brockriede Top
Speaker Award; to District IX for donating the rotating Top Speaker
Trophy; the Copeland Family for donating the Rex Copeland First Team
At Large Trophy, to Ovid R. Davis for donating the Ovid R. Davis/West
Georgia College Championship Coach Award and to Lucy Keele for the funding to support the Lucy Keele Service award.