Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Not Liberty. For the second time in three years, Michigan State won the collegiate National Debate Tournament championship. After starting the year with a win at the Wake Forest tournament, they had to beat Wake Forest in the finals and they emerged with a 6-1 victory. Congratulations to Will Repko and Mike Eber, the head coach and director of the MSU debate program, and to seniors Ryan Burke and Casey Harrigan. I’ll have more later when I return from running some errands this morning.

I can’t tell you how proud and pleasantly astonished I am to see how successful Will has become as a college coach. When I first met him he was a sophomore in high school and, frankly, a mediocre debater. I started coaching at Okemos high school and he debated for East Lansing, just a few minutes away. I had debated against his older sister for 4 years in high school. And at that point, Will just wasn’t that good at debate.

A mutual friend of ours commented a few months ago that he can’t remember ever seeing someone improve so much from the beginning to the end of their senior year in debate and I agreed. In one year, Will went from being a mediocre debater to being one of the best in the state almost instantaneously. His partner was his younger sister, Biza, who would prove to be an even better debater eventually. She went on to be a national champion college debater as well.

After graduation, Will began coaching his old high school in debate and turned them into a powerhouse program almost immediately. A few years later he moved up to the college ranks with MSU and did the same with them. Now MSU is a perennial participant in the late elimination rounds of national tournaments, a two time national champion and Will has once been named Coach of the Year. He has brought Michigan State up to the level of traditionally great debate schools like Harvard and Northwestern.

Incidentally, he also tried his hand at stand up comedy after high school and he could have been very good, but he was too devoted to coaching to put all his energy into it. But he was very, very funny (and he was there the night that I made an audience hate me for wondering aloud when Michael Landon would die without knowing that he had died that morning). And after not speaking to each other for many years, we reunited a couple years ago due to our mutual love of poker (I walked into a poker room and there he was). So in an odd way, we’ve always had almost identical interests and aptitudes.

After we’d reestablished our friendship, Will told me that he had made a list some years back of the 15 people that had been the biggest influences on his life and that I was on that list. That made me feel very good. I see what he’s accomplished now and I feel like an older brother watching his younger brother do everything he did, but about 1000% better. He’s an hell of a guy and I couldn’t be more proud. Congratulations to Will and to everyone involved in the MSU debate program for their monumental accomplishment.


  1. #1 J-Dog
    March 28, 2006

    I guess the Liberty “#1 Debate Team In The Country” was too busy getting ready for the rapture, and got distracted?

    Ed – Seriously – Are you gonna send the REAL debazte results to all the media outlets touting the Louts From Liberty?

  2. #2 Will
    March 28, 2006

    Congratulations to the MSU team and their coach.

  3. #3 Ed Darrell
    March 29, 2006

    Thanks for carrying the results. I sent a note to CBS asking them for some coverage for MSU. How many local news outlets shoulda been involved?

    Sometimes I think the NDT world prefers that the rest of the world ignore them. What would the tournament be if the rest of the world noticed?

  4. #4 Ampersand
    March 29, 2006

    The one time I attended the NDT, I noticed that they make videos of all the final and semi-final rounds. I keep on hoping to see those videos made available to the public…

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    March 29, 2006


    I’ve seen a few of them, but they’re not generally available to the public. You could probably get them by contacting NDT, but in general they are used for teaching purposes. There is also a documentary made of the NDT every year. I’ve seen the one from 2004 and it was quite interesting.

  6. #6 Dave S.
    March 29, 2006

    Read something in The Liberty Champion, published yesterday, on the Liberty Debate team under the byline of a Joanne Tang. It’s pretty much what you’d expect them to say –

    Their goal is to obtain as many points as possible, and for the Liberty University debate team, their points have been worth their weight in gold. Placing in the top 10 is quite an achievement, but to be the number one team in the country is something LU debate can proudly exclaim. They are currently at the top of the heap in the American Debate Association, Cross Examination Debate Association and the National Debate Tournament.

    Only one thing was missing. This was dated yesterday…but she made not the slightest mention of the results from the nationals that had just concluded the day before and that Liberty had participated.

    In the old days, the Russians used to do this when their chess champs got beaten badly. One account in 1971 mentioned that the ‘Fischer v. Tiaminov match resumes tomorrow with the 6th game’. Full stop. No mention that Tiamanov was being smashed by an unheard of 5-0 at the time.

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