Brett O’Donnell, the coach of the Liberty University debate team, was on the Colbert Report last night on Comedy Central. He actually talked about how great it was to beat Harvard and with all the talk of how Liberty is “better” than Harvard and Dartmouth and Northwestern, etc, not once did he even hint at the fact that they are #1 only because they send a lot of teams to weak regional tournaments as well as enter lots of teams in novice events. They really are playing this meaningless #1 ranking up to a ridiculous degree. The NDT is coming up the end of this month at Northwestern. I’d be happy to bet O’Donnell that his varsity team won’t get past the octofinals of the NDT.
They can talk all they want about how great it is that they’re giving opportunities to kids who didn’t debate in high school to compete at novice and JV tournaments, but that is not in any way a measure of the quality of the debate team. If the better debate programs had their kids debate novice or JV, they would almost certainly crush the Liberty team just as they do in varsity. You aren’t better than Harvard or Dartmouth or Michigan State or Emory or Berkeley or any of the other top programs just because you take a lot of kids to debate in the minor leagues at small tournaments where they don’t have to worry about facing good competition.