LAWRENCE — For the 50th consecutive year, the University of Kansas has qualified teams to compete at the National Debate Tournament. Two KU teams have qualified as automatic at-large qualifiers for the 78-team NDT field. A national committee selects the top 16 individual teams in the country as automatic qualifiers for the tournament based on their performance over the course of the regular season. The teams of freshman Kyndall Delph and junior Quaram Robinson and sophomores Jacob Hegna and Henry Walter will be representing KU at this year’s tournament. The rest of the 78-team field will qualify over the next three weeks.
Delph/Robinson and Hegna/Walter are the 37th and 38th KU teams to receive a first-round automatic qualification for the NDT. It is the second time Robinson has been an automatic qualifier, an honor she accomplished as a freshman debating with current KU assistant coach Jyleesa Hampton two years ago. Last year Robinson and partner Sion Bell ranked 17th and just missed automatic qualification but went undefeated at the regional qualifying tournament. They took second place at the NDT, losing to Harvard in the championship debate.
KU was one of only three schools to have two teams in the top 16 qualifiers. The University of California-Berkeley and Emory University also qualified two teams. The other 10 automatic qualifiers are from Georgetown University, Harvard University, the University of Kentucky, the University of Michigan, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Northwestern University, the University of Oklahoma, Rutgers-Newark University, the University of Southern California and Wake Forest University. The selection committee does not reveal its rank order of the 16 teams until after the NDT.
“Congratulations to the individual students, but more importantly, to all of the Kansas debaters,” said Assistant Coach Brendon Bankey. “This accomplishment is a team effort and couldn’t happen without a dedicated and hardworking squad.”
KU hopes to qualify a third team for the 78-team field through an at-large selection process. The NDT allows up to six schools to qualify a third team for the tournament.
“We are confident that the team of seniors Christopher Birzer and Mac Cook will receive an at-large invitation to the NDT, rewarding them for an excellent season as one of the top teams in the country,” said Scott Harris, the David B. Pittaway Director of Debate.
Birzer and Cook are ranked 22nd in the country in the final regular season College Debate Rankings. The pair qualified for the NDT last year.
KU will host the 71st National Debate Tournament March 24-27. The tournament is at the Edwards Campus in Overland Park. It is the first time that KU will host the tournament.
KU has qualified for the NDT in 66 of the 71 years of the tournament’s existence. The university also has had a team reach the final four at least once in every decade since the tournament began in 1947, reaching its first final four in 1948 and most recently last year. KU has advanced to the final four 15 times and won the National Debate Tournament five times.