ACI Debate on a Roll
2002. 11. 22.
CALDWELL, ID- So, how does a small college with a small budget manage to field one of the largest and most successful debate teams in the country? With creativity, determination, resourcefulness, skill and a bit of irreverence.
The team is led by 7th year coach, Mack Sermon, who, in 2002, was awarded the Outstanding Young Educator by the National Communication Association. The CofI debate team is poised for its 5th straight year as winner of the Northwest Conference Division II Championship. CofI debaters recently defeated Reed, Whitman, Willamette and several PAC 10 conference schools to take first place (out of 29 teams) in the Pacific University debate tournament held over the weekend.
Dr. Jasper LiCalzi, academic advisor to the team, attributes the team's success to a unique coaching staff and a philosophy rooted in the liberal arts: 'Students know they're going to be part of a winning tradition that is anything but traditional. Debate is co-curricular at Albertson and the team allows us to demonstrate that the education provided here is world class. Our debate team is great because we creatively use the resources of the college, the faculty and the students, to make it great.'
The Howlin' Yotes just find a way to win. Students go without per diem for meals. They often need to put six students in a hotel room. By the end of the season, many of the top debate schools will have attended 30 to 35 tournaments; Albertson has never attended more than 8 in a year. Most teams with more than 50 students have 5-8 coaches, one of which is a tenured faculty member. Albertson has Sermon as a 3/4 time adjunct faculty member. The team also has two volunteer assistant coaches with token salaries: CofI alumae Tabitha Miller and BSU graduate student Matt Compton. But still, the Howlin' Yotes consistently push their way to the top of the national rankings, finishing 25th last year in the National Parliamentary Debate Association rankings.
When the Howlin Yotes took First Place at the University of Utah Tournament last season, another debate coach was heard saying, 'I have never seen a debate team do so much with so little.'
Mack estimates that the CofI debate team of about 80 debaters is the third largest in the nation. However, Albertson is also one of the smallest schools that compete in debate. The team's budget of about $50,000 (including salaries) competes with the $250,000-$500,000 budgets of its rivals. The team was recently invited to a prestigious tournament in Hawaii, but had to decline the invitation, due to a lack of funds to get them there (and back).
Sermon takes this all in stride. 'If we had a million dollar budget this wouldn't be nearly as challenging or fun. Most of my colleagues can't believe we are able to compete at this level with this budget. I think it makes the students appreciate their victories more. However, a slightly larger budget would insure that our students are able to take advantage of all the opportunities extended them in debate.'
The team will finish their season with tournaments at the Air Force Academy, UC Berkeley and UCLA.
For further information about the debate team, contact Mack Sermon at [email protected]