[eDebate] USC 'Alan Nichols' Tournament Notes

Gordon Stables stables
Mon Oct 22 13:10:37 CDT 2007

Last week I submitted the information for the USC 'Alan Nichols' tournament
to debateresults, but accidentally didn't allow entries to the site. That
error has now been corrected and you may enter at your convenience.

I am also pasting the full invitation below. Please note that the tournament
hotel (the Sheraton) has a reasonably priced block of rooms that will expire
on November 27th. We have increased the block size from recent years but we
do ask that you make reservations as soon as possible.

If you have any questions pleas let me know.

Gordon Stables, Ph.D.
Director of Debate and Forensics
Annenberg School for Communication
University of Southern California
Office: 213 740 2759               Fax: 213 740 3913

October 16, 2007

Dear Friends,

You are cordially invited to attend the annual Alan Nichols Debate
Tournament to be held on December 29-31, 2007 at the University of Southern
California. We invite you to join us for temperate weather and very good
competition in the final days of 2007. 

This year we will be again offering open and junior varsity divisions of
policy debate. Both divisions will feature seven preliminary debates. The
open division will clear all teams with a winning record, up to a full
double octofinals. Based on the entries from the last few years, we expect
to an almost full partial double-octafinals in open and a quarter-finals in
junior varsity.

We are committed to offering a tournament that provides good hospitality and
some of the best competition of the year. We have found that the seven
preliminary rounds allows a reasonable schedule of elimination round debates
without sacrificing the important goal of avoiding allowing speaker point
differentials to determine participation in elimination rounds. All of this
can now be accomplished in a way that allows everyone to ring in the New
Year after the conclusion of the tournament.

We are also happy to continue a long-standing tradition, the California
Swing Award. Cooperatively with California State University - Fullerton we
will be providing an award to the team with the best preliminary record at
the two tournaments. Elimination round wins will serve as the tiebreaker for
the award.

We have a couple of new features for you to look forward to this year:

.	Elimination day at the hotel - For the first time we will be having
all of the elimination rounds on the 31st at the Sheraton. 
.	An all tournament party to celebrate New Year's Eve - The Sheraton
is also working with us to host an all-ages party as the elimination rounds
.	An effort to improve the value of speaker points. We will be
providing a specific scale (using the 26-30 system) that allows quarter
points (27.75, 28.25, etc.) and providing guidelines to help us as a
community make better use of the speaker points students earn.

We hope you will enjoy the opportunity to have quality competition in a
friendly December climate. Please let us know if you have any questions. We
look forward to ringing in the New Year in Southern California.

Warmest Regards,

Gordon Stables, Ph.D.
Director of Debate & Forensics
stables at usc.edu

Tournament Information
Registration: All registration will be handled through:
http://www.debateresults.com All entries must be received by December 17,
Format - Debates will use the 2007-2008 CEDA topic and employ a 9-3-6 time
format with 10 minutes of preparation time per team. Eligibility for the
divisions is determined by CEDA rules. We will offer seven preliminary
debates and all teams with a winning record, up to the highest seeded 32
such teams, will participate in elimination rounds. Byes will be given if
less than 32 teams have a winning record.

Teams - Entries are unlimited per division. Each team must consist of two
students formally representing their university. Individual students are not
allowed to enter, qualify for, or compete in elimination rounds. Individual
debaters can win preliminary debates, but unless the team is intact for more
than half of the preliminary rounds that team cannot quality for the
elimination rounds. Hybrid teams are not eligible to participate in
elimination rounds, unless the hybrid involves an inactive program. 

Pairings - Brackets will not be broken in elimination rounds. Sides for
elimination rounds will be determined by reversing the sides from
preliminary rounds or allowing the teams to choose sides based on a coin

We will employ a mutual preference judge system for both divisions using six
categories that counts each judge based on the number of rounds they are
committed to judge. Judge preferences will be made available via
www.debateresults.com on December 26th and due no later than 10:00 pm pst on
December 28th. Adam Symonds of ASU will be primarily responsible for the
operation of the tab room, along with the USC staff.

The last preliminary round of 2007 - As the last preliminary round of 2007,
round seven will have a slightly different feel.  It will be a flip for
sides debate. Tournament staff will verify that 25 minutes after the
pairings are released, teams have chosen sides. If teams have not chosen
sides at this point, tournament staff will conduct a coin toss and will
assign sides based on the result. This procedure is necessary to ensure that
the tournament runs on time, even though we prefer that the competitors make
this decision.

Judging - Schools are required to provide qualified judging. One team
requires four rounds of judging obligation and two teams require seven
rounds of commitment. Judges must have either completed their bachelor's
degree or rescinded their eligibility. Anyone who judges in the open
division at the Nichols will not be allowed to subsequently enter as a
competitor in future Nichols tournaments.

We will have a very limited number of hired judges available at $100 per
uncovered team. We are also committed to providing generous compensation for
those judges who would be highly preferred critics in the late elimination
rounds. If this is something that might interest you please contact us.

All judges are obligated through the octafinals on the morning of the 31st.
Judges are asked to provide an educational environment in each debate and to
provide a judgment on that debate. All debates must be decided with only one
win and only one loss. The tournament will provide a judgment if the
assigned judge is unwilling to complete this request. 

Speaker Points - We are very concerned that the current speaker point scale
and system doesn't help differentiate the quality of individual speakers.
Specifically we are worried that the norm has evolved to giving most
debaters the same points with only a few judges willing to vary from that
norm. Our research, for example, shows that at one of the larger recent
tournament (hosted by the University of Kentucky) almost half of every
speaker in every debate earned the same speaker points, a 28. The community,
it appears, now considers this to be the default setting for speaker points.
With 46% of the speakers earning exactly a 28 and then an additional 24%
earning a 27.5 it also appears obvious that the actual scale in practice is
too small. When 70% of the debaters earn one of two items on the scale it is
obvious why tiebreakers, speaker awards, teams clearing and seeding appear
so arbitrary. 

To that end we are going to provide additional options to judges and in
exchange we ask you to consider your points as part of the larger scale. Our
charge is that we would prefer that judges utilize speaker points to
differentiate between the performances of individual debaters in each round.
We ask you to use the following scale

26	Needs improvement
27	Below Average
28	Average
29	Very Good
30	Perfect

The determination of how these points should be awarded still obviously
resides with individual judges. 

We do ask you to consider two additional guidelines:
.	Speakers should be differentiated in each debate. It is certainly
conceivable that debaters would earn similar points, but we would ask judges
from awarding more two speakers with the same points in a given debate. The
quarter points are a means you reflecting differences in performances.
.	We ask that judges not regularly award the bulk of their points at
or below the 'below average' (27) standard or at or above the 'very good'
(29) standard. In order for speaker points to have some sense of meaning
individual judges must feel comfortable providing evaluations across the
range of items.

These are guidelines that we are requesting your assistance in implanting.
We feel it is in everyone's competitive and educational interests to have a
meaningful speaker point scale.

Awards - We will provide a nice selection of awards for all teams
participating in elimination rounds and for the top speakers in each

Fees - Team fees are $125 each. This includes entry and selected meal costs
for each team and one coach. There will be an additional $50 fee for all
other coaches, judges, and members of your entourage that will take in part
in tournament amenities. These fees cover trophies, several meals, and our
general hospitality.  
Transportation fees are optional and $25 per person. All checks should be
made payable to the Trojan Debate Squad. Hired judges are $100 per team. We
will seek to accommodate schools with financial difficulty.

Ground Transportation - LAX and the downtown area provide a wide array of
rental vehicle options. We realize, however, that the costs of renting
vehicles for the entire swing can impose a heavy burden on programs, as well
as requiring the presence of a 25-year old driver. The cost issue is
especially true for the Nichols tournament. Hotel parking at the Sheraton is
valet only and is approximately $20 per day. School parking is also
fee-based at $6 per day. If you park on campus, you should enter through the
gate at Jefferson and McClintock (Gate #5).

In order to provide a remedy for this problem, we will do what we can reduce
the need for rental vehicles. You can easily take cab service from LAX to
the Sheraton. We are also offering a transportation shuttle to and from the
hotel each day. We ask that when you register you indicate how many people
from your school will require transportation and we will charge you $25 per
person. We ask that this information be provided in your online registration
so we can effectively plan for the number of people who will be transported.
We can only guarantee ground transportation for those requests made by
December 17, 2007.

We have traditionally offered vendor options if you need a shuttle service
to the second half of the swing at California State University at Fullerton,
but we don't usually have any takers. If you need to arrange ground
transportation on the 1st please let us know.

Tournament Hotel - We have secured a large block of rooms at the Sheraton
Los Angeles Downtown Hotel. This is the same property that we have used in
previous years. We are pleased to have secured a $99.00 per night rate for
up to four guests per room at this property. There is a small block
available for Thursday December 27th and a large block available for the
remainder of the tournament dates for tournament participants. 

Contact the hotel at (213) 488-3500 to make reservations. Ask for the block
for the 'USC Debate Squad.' We strongly encourage you to use this option.
New Year's in Los Angeles can be very expensive. Making reservations outside
the block with the Sheraton can cost you at least $199 per room over those

The block is available on a first-come, first-serve basis to our guests. The
block typically fills so please reserve as early as possible.  The block
will close on November 27. Even if rooms are available past that date we
cannot ensure the group rate.

You can access the Sheraton's website to find more information about the
property or contact them.

 711 South Hope Street 	
Los Angeles, California 90017
Phone (213) 488-3500		Fax (213) 488-4110

Additionally, the Vagabond Inn is located close to USC at 3101 South
Figueroa. They can be reached at (213) 746-9108. They are not offering a
special tournament rate and the shuttles will not operate there. 

Campus Internet - USC has an open guest wireless network for public use.

New Year's Eve in LA - There are many options for those of you want to
explore one of the world's great cities on New Years, but we are also going
to host a tournament party at the Sheraton. More details to follow, but this
will be an all-ages event with hotel employees in charge of verifying those
over 21. 

Questions - We are very interested in making your trip enjoyable and a great
competitive experience. Please don't hesitate to contact us with any
questions. If you have any tournament related questions, please contact
Gordon Stables at (213) 740-2759 or stables at usc.edu 

Tournament Schedule

December 28, 2007:	
7:30 - 9:00 PM	Registration and Coaches Reception - The Sheraton Hotel

December 29, 2007:
7:00 AM 	Pairings Released for Rounds One and Two @ Sheraton & Campus

(Shuttle Begins from Tournament Hotel)
8:15		Round One start time
11:00		Round Two start time
1:00 PM	Lunch Break
2:00 		Pairings released for Round Three
2:45		Round Three start time
5:45		Pairings released for Round Four
6:30		Round Four start time
December 30, 2007:
7:00 AM	Pairings Released for Rounds Five and Six @ Sheraton & Campus
(Shuttle Begins from Tournament Hotel)
8:15 		Round Five start time
11:15		Round Six start time
1:00 PM	Lunch Break
2:00		Pairings released for Round Seven
2:25		Sides must be determined 
2:45 		Round Seven start time
5:00		Dinner & Announcement of Speaker Awards and
Double-Octofinals pairings 
7:00		Double-Octofinals start time

December 31, 2007: 		All Events at the Sheraton

7:00 AM	Octofinals Pairings & Elimination Round Bracket Released @ Sheraton
8:15		Octofinals start time
11:30		Quarterfinals start time 
3:00 PM	Semifinals start time
6:30		Final Round Start Time
TBA		Tournament party @ Sheraton

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