SMU Debate Wins Texas State Championship

In spite of having only four team members at the competition, SMU was a top scoring school

Left to right at the 2018 TIFA State Championships: Darcy Wyatt, Chip Myers, Dr. Ben Voth, Matthew Lucci, Maggie Cook-Allen.

The team may have been small, but their awards were many.

Over the February 3-4 weekend, four members of the SMU Debate team traveled to Bryan, Texas, for the Texas Intercollegiate Forensics Association (TIFA) state championships at Blinn College. Competing against 13 other Texas universities and colleges, they took home top speaker, top scoring school, top novice debater and more in the International Public Debate Association (IPDA) division. The accolades continue a long winning streak for the team.

The tournament featured three types of debate: Parliamentary, Lincoln Douglas and IPDA. SMU competed exclusively in the IPDA-format events.

Here are the highlights:

  • Matthew Lucci (B.S. Mechanical Engineering ’18) won top speaker and was undefeated through all seven rounds of debate.
  • After winning their semifinal debates, Lucci and Maggie Cook-Allen (B.A. Political Science, B.A. Philosophy ’21) closed out the final round of the tournament. (To still be competing in the final round is viewed by forensics coaches as an indication of a school’s dominant strength.)
  • SMU had three of the top eight debaters in the quarterfinals, more than any other school at the tournament.
  • Lucci and Cook-Allen defeated rivals from Texas A&M and Tyler Junior College to claim first and second place for SMU in the open division tournament. “Open division” is open to varsity, junior varsity or novice competitors. The four SMU debaters are junior varsity or novice.
  • Mark “Chip” Myers (B.A. History ’21) won top novice IPDA debater.
  • SMU took first place in the IPDA sweepstakes awards, followed by Tyler Junior College in second and Texas A&M in third.
  • In addition to placing first in the state in the category of International Public Debate, SMU placed fifth in overall speech and debate awards.
  • Darcy Wyatt (B.S. Biochemistry ’21) was the 8th-rated debater in the state of Texas in IPDA.

“The best part of being on the SMU Debate team is having the opportunity to engage in intellectual development while in a competitive environment with some of the greatest friends and teammates imaginable,” says Lucci, who also serves as the team’s vice president of operations and finance. In addition, Lucci serves as speaker for the SMU Student Senate; president of the SMU College Democrats; and chairman of the SMU Student Leadership Historical Commission.

Cook-Allen also speaks highly of the team and its camaraderie. “The best part of being on SMU debate is the wonderful family I get to be a part of,” she says. “It’s an honor to compete alongside such inspired and motivated people.” Colleague Myers adds, “The best part is being able to support my friends, as well as being able to better my speaking skills.” Wyatt points to the motivational aspect of being on the team. “We push each other to grow in our knowledge and capabilities, not only in debate, but in our daily lives,” she says. “We can have intellectual discussions well into the night, and we are always looking for ways to hone our analytical and critical thinking skills. We like to think we are a family; we definitely argue like one!”

Efforts made by the team are especially important to America’s political discourse, says Debate Director Dr. Ben Voth, associate professor in SMU Meadows’ Division of Corporate Communication and Public Affairs. “Students and the University can experience these important successes at a time when our society struggles to engage in civil conversations,” he says. “Debate is one of our best pedagogical tools for teaching civility and critical thinking. SMU is excelling at this and demonstrating this ability with our student competitors.”

SMU Debate is directed by Dr. Ben Voth. Assistant coaches include Keith Milstead and Ross Sloan. The program is funded and sponsored by Meadows School of the Arts and the SMU Vice President of Student Affairs.

Keep up with the winning SMU Debate team on Facebook.