By now, most of you know this year’s LD TOC features six preliminary debates instead of the usual seven. Other than 2011’s eight prelim TOC, this is the only deviation from the norm in recent memory.

We spoke to Scott Wheeler, a member of the LD TOC Committee, to discuss the change, which was made at last year’s committee meeting. He suggested that the Committee was particularly concerned with perceived neg side bias in the activity, and equalizing the number of aff and neg rounds was a good solution. This year, all 4-2s will clear.

In addition to side skew, some concerns one might have about the number of prelims include:

  • Six rounds makes clearing easier (assuming all 4-2s clear), so the prestige of clearing at TOC is diminished. On the other hand, some may not consider doubles clearing, but that’s hard to accept if it’s a full or nearly-full doubles debate.
  • With more bids and more at-large bids, the pool is larger, so a smaller percentage of the pool reaches elims than ever before
  • Decreasing the number of debates decreases the accuracy of the results. More debates means another round with speaker points, which improves elim seeding
  • More teams in doubles means more paneled debates. Three judges are more likely to ‘get it right’ but overall judging might be worse since a few more judges will be required, and balancing prefs across three is harder than just getting one
  • Six rounds and doubles moves the side skew to doubles. Now instead of complaining about affirming in round seven, folks can complain about affirming in doubles.
  • People seemed to dislike eight rounds in 2011
  • Eight rounds is exhausting for high school debaters who generally debate six and seven round tournaments, and the TOC is the most grueling tournament of all
  • Eight rounds delays elims by one round, which means more people leave, and the panels get worse as the significance of the debates increases
  • Other solutions to combat side skew include elim side equalization, powering round four off rounds one and two instead of three (I think Mike Bietz has suggested this), and flipping for sides in all elims instead of locking sides from previous matchups (John Scoggin has suggested this)

What do you think of the switch? What other structural changes would you like to see from the TOC Committee for next year’s TOC? Vote and then comment below or on our Facebook page!

Which is your preferred TOC prelims format?

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Bob Overing
Bob is a Co-Director of Premier, coach for Walt Whitman HS, and current student at Yale Law School and Yale School of Management. As a senior in high school, he was ranked #1, earned 11 bids and took 2nd at TOC. In college, he cleared at CEDA and qualified to the NDT. His students have earned 80 career bids, reached TOC finals, and won many championships.