Georgia State Debate Team competes in National Debate Tournament

The Georgia State Debate Team competed in the National Debate Tournament Championship at Indiana University March 28-31.

Teams from all over the country compete in the National Debate Tournament. Last year’s winners were Emporia State University’s Elijah Smith and Ryan Wash. This year, Georgia State’s varsity team Luke Floyd and John Finch will represented Georgia State.


“Emory is always an important school for us to measure ourselves against, since their program is so big and has such a long history of success. They came close to keeping us from qualifying for the National Debate Tournament this year, so it would be nice to beat them in the last tournament. The odds are against us even having a chance to debate them, however,” Dr. Joe Bellon, director of the Debate Team, said.

Georgia State has a rival with other schools in the southeast like the University of Georgia and Wake Forest University. All three schools will be attending the National Debate Tournament.



The debate team faced a setback this year when the top two teams switched partners midway through the year.

“The top two teams at Georgia State switched partners midway through the year, which would have really affected our success negatively,” Bellon said. “ However, everyone on the squad pulled together in a positive way, and we came closer than we ever have in the history of the program to qualifying two teams for the National Debate Tournament.”

Another setback the Georgia State Debate Team faced was the fall of the other varsity team, Jacob Nails and Clay Stewart, to qualify for the national tournament.

“Both debated well and worked hard and just barely missed receiving an invitation to the national championship tournament,” said Nick J. Sciullo, assistant coach for the Georgia State Debate Team and third-year Ph.D. Rhetoric and Politics track in the Department of Communication.

Making History at Cross Examination Debate Association

The Southeast CEDA Regional Championship Tournament is a tournament where teams such as University of Georgia, Emory University and the University of Florida compete. Debate is also divided into regional districts.

Korey Johnson and Ameena Ruffin made history as the first time two black women have won the CEDA tournament. They were also undefeated in the preliminary debates.

“Korey and Ameena’s victory should be celebrated on its own merits, but those of us who have been part of the move to make debate more accessible also see it as a sign of hope. GSU is a school that is intimately familiar with the issues and benefits of diversity, and our debate team has been involved in the move toward greater access for many years,” Bellon said.

Sciullo said that the two debaters, Johnson and Ruffin, worked hard to make provocative arguments and to challenge debate traditions.

“No black woman has ever won CEDA. It’s a tremendously significant event in this respect. These two debaters have worked tremendously hard making provocative arguments and radically challenging traditional notions of debate by bringing to the activity a significant contribution to revolutionary consciousness,” Sciullo said.

Luke Floyd and John Finch were ranked in the top 80 teams in the country. Floyd and Finch have a record of 22-14 in preliminary rounds and 5-2 in elimination rounds.

“Winning the Southeast CEDA Regional Championship Tournament means that, by some metrics, Georgia State’s Floyd and Finch is the best team in the region,” Sciullo said.

Judgement of Debates

Debate rounds are judged by debate coaches and former debaters. Judges can range from college professors with Ph.D.s to students who just graduated from college.

Preliminary rounds are judged by one judge, and the elimination rounds are judged by 3-judge-panels. However, at the National Debate Tournament, all preliminary rounds are judged by a 3-person panel, and elimination debates are judged by at least five people.

“Debates are judged on strength of argument. Persuasion, logic, and public speaking are all factor into these decisions,” Sciulio said.

History of the Georgia State Debate Team

The Georgia State Debate Team developed in the 1970s. The modern program was built by Dr. Rich Edwards, who first took the debate team to the National Debate Tournament in 1984. After Dr. Edwards’ departure in the late 1980s, the team failed from competitive triumph. Dr. Joe Bellon took over Director of Debate in 2000 and has led the Georgia State Debate Team to the National Debate Tournament nine times since, according to Bellon.

The Georgia State Debate Team is open to all students interested in debating. Those interested can contact Dr. Bellon for more information.