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    Who Are The Most Successful College Debate Programs? A Brief Overview.




         Over the past few months I have been analyzing the voting histories of over 400 active judges on the College Policy Circuit, covering just about every judge who has been to a major national or large regional tournament in the past year and a half. I have posted publicly about some of the insights this brings on which judges have judged the most rounds, and what this can show about how judges behave and the question of judge predictability.


          For my latest project I’ve been investigating school bias in judges, testing to see if judges can be biased towards teams from a school (or set of schools) when compared to other judges. That analysis is still in its embryonic stages, but in the meantime I felt that there might be interest in what the raw data tells us about the successes of various schools.


         I will make a separate, longer, post going deeper into the methodology behind this data, however the basic process was scouring through the Tabroom judging record of 416 Judges, analyzing the over 48,000 ballots that they had between them, parsing which schools were involved and who won, and then compiling that data. While this isn’t a complete history of the tabroom era it does give a relatively representative understanding of the past six years of debate history.


         Below I present three relatively basic metrics for school success: Percentage of ballots won (the data treats each ballot as a separate decision as opposed to analyzing panel decisions holistically), the total number of ballots won, and the most ballots contested. This data explicitly excludes swing-teams but does count the rounds of teams who were debating swing teams. There was no differentiation made between Novice, JV, or Varsity divisions in the compiling of this data. 


    The top ten most successful teams* by percentage of ballots that they’ve won are:


    1.      Harvard – 63.0% of ballots

    2.      Northwestern – 62.1% of ballots

    3.      Towson – 60.7% of ballots

    4.      UC – Berkeley – 59.2% of ballots

    5.      Georgetown – 58.8% of ballots

    6.      University of Michigan – 57.8% of ballots

    7.      Oklahoma – 57.3% of ballots

    8.      Rutgers-Newark – 57.3 % of ballots

    9.      Kansas – 56.6% of ballots

    10.   Wake Forest – 56.2% of ballots


    The top ten most successful teams by won ballots are:


    1.      Liberty University – 2,583 Ballots

    2.      George Mason – 2,268 Ballots

    3.      Kansas – 2,186 Ballots

    4.      Wake Forest – 1,777 Ballots

    5.      Emory – 1,562 Ballots

    6.      University of Michigan – 1,556 Ballots

    7.      Harvard – 1,509 Ballots

    8.      Oklahoma – 1,346 Ballots

    9.      Northwestern – 1,189 Ballots

    10.   James Madison University – 1,181 Ballots

    Honorable mention goes to Binghamton University in a very close 11th place.


    The top ten most successful teams by ballots contested are:


    1.      Liberty University – 4,681 RBallots

    2.      George Mason University – 4,090 Ballots

    3.      Kansas – 3,860 Ballots

    4.      Wake Forest – 3,162 Ballots

    5.      Emory – 2,844 Ballots

    6.      University of Michigan – 2,693 Ballots

    7.      James Madison University – 2,625 Ballots

    8.      Harvard University – 2,394 Ballots

    9.      Binghamton University – 2,393 Ballots

    10.   Oklahoma – 2,347 Ballots







    * Not including teams with under 40 ballots in my data set. Apologies to Columbia, SUNY Broome, and City College who would otherwise have places on this list.

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