[eDebate] sweepstakes reform--a rough proposal

NEIL BERCH berchnorto
Wed Dec 5 20:55:39 CST 2007

This is a (very) rough version of a proposal that I currently intend to submit for the March business meeting.  Please feel free to offer suggestions and/or try to convince me that it's a bad idea.

It seems that much of the recent discussion on the boundaries between novice and JV eligibility, and the boundaries between JV and Open eligibility, focus on two sets of claims:

1.  Extreme mismatches within divisions cause some group of debaters to become more likely to quit;
2.  Extreme mismatches within divisions results from some "unfair" advantage that some who are eligible for a division have over others who are eligible for that division, and coaches and debaters have incentive to take advantage of these mismatches for sweepstakes points.

To the extent that reform proposals succeed, they do indeed advantage some new group (for example, the claim that removing those with extensive high school LD experience from novice will then advantage those with some prior college policy experience (but under the 24 round limit).  And, often, people's ideas of what is fair and educationally best also happen to coincide with the best competitive interests of their programs.

My proposal stems from two assumptions, which I believe to be axiomatic.  To the extent that there are extreme mismatches at the start of a year, they decrease over the course of the year.  For instance, if someone starts the year in JV with 4 years of good high school policy experience, they will have a substantial advantage over someone who starts the year in JV with no high school experience and one average year of college novice policy debate.  However, over the course of the year, all of the literature on diminishing returns, etc. would suggest that the gap would be closed to some extent.  I would argue that the impact of pre-year experience advantages diminishes over time, and intelligence, skills, hard work, and maybe a little coaching become more important.

Further, to the extent that mismatches cause people to quit, that effect should diminish over the course of the year because:
a)  the magnitude of the mismatches declines;
b)  the "victims" of the mismatch will have had more opportunity to have other positive experiences over the course of the year.

Thus, my proposal in very general form:
The year should be divided into three periods, fall semester, early spring semester, and late spring semester.  During fall semester, the sweepstakes points should be either reduced substantially (50%) or eliminated entirely in the JV and Novice divisions (and perhaps for equity purposes, in all three divisions).  During the second period, regular points would apply.  And during the third period, points would be enhanced by 50% (again, either in JV and Novice or in all divisions).  That third period might encompass CEDA Nationals and the 30 days immediately prior to it (which would then include regionals--if they still exist--, novice/JV Nats in their various forms, ADA Nationals, etc.).

The purpose would be to encourage coaches and debaters to have debaters compete in the best possible levels for their development (no incentive to drop down and rack up a bunch of points) until the end of the season bloodbaths.  This would then open up space for others in JV (since good JV teams would have incentive to move up and get better) during the "regular season", making it less likely that beginning JV debaters would quit.  The same would take place in novice.  Plus, the backloading of points would mean that suspense would build over the course of the season.

One caveat:  this might require going to counting only the 4 best performances instead of 6.  I would note that this is what NPDA does in the SQ.  Perhaps Jim Hanson can comment on how that works.

OK, I'm sure that there are hidden disads that I haven't thought of.  Please let me know what they are.

--Neil Berch
West Virginia University
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