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Author Topic: UMKC and Regional Distribution of Tournaments  (Read 14756 times)
jonahfeldman
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Posts: 96


« on: September 26, 2012, 04:22:11 PM »

UMKC did an awesome job this past weekend.  Everything ran right on time, the food was incredible, the hotel was really really nice (especially considering the price), and shuttles to and from the airport were provided with no waiting time.  Thanks to all the UMKC crew and Symonds for a great tournament.

Despite the existence of a high quality alternative, most of the top teams in the country decided to make their beginning tournament Georgia State, even though District Six already has 2 other major tournaments.  I think this is worth having a public discussion about because the regional distribution of tournaments is clearly heavily skewed.

The tournament schedule should be designed with the goal of providing as many debate teams in the country with the opportunity to have debates against top level competition at a reasonable cost to the program.  Instead, the current schedule is the result of tradition, self-interest, and nepotism.  A realignment is in order that prioritizes intentional choices by the community to further equitable objectives.

I am skeptical that this realignment will come about voluntarily and so it's worth revisiting some of the ideas that have been proposed to utilize the first round voting system.  If first round voters were limited in their consideration to results from a list of regionally diverse tournaments than it would significantly alter the tournament distribution landscape.

I would love to hear your agreement, disagreement, or thoughts.
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tcram
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« Reply #1 on: September 26, 2012, 05:00:22 PM »

Agree STRONGLY, partially because of my social location in a district that spans roughly a quarter of the contiguous United States and partially because of my social location as a director of a relatively small, poor program.  Largely, however I agree based on the conviction that we all hang together when it comes to the long-term sustainability of this activity.  

Can a market solution work?  Perhaps.  Collective action problems can be overcome, but only if director's are willing to make a short-term sacrifice with the knowledge that balance and equity are more important long-term drivers of whether debate will be around for students.  I've seen encouraging moves on this front at least within my own district.  We made the choice to shift tournament hosting for the district tournament to a location that will raise my squad's cost of attendance by about a factor of 3 (even with generous subsidies), but I supported that decision because I recognize the economic privilege I would enjoy by having NDT/CEDA hosted much closer to home while those on the outer fringes of the district would still have to pay a lot.  Thus, it made sense to pay a price in order to make sure that we can ALL compete more in the future.

But, the viability of a market solution is somewhat discouraged for the same reasons that Jonah cites... bigger squads get to play with a bigger grub-stake and these issues are not as immediately troubling to them.  Some districts can also achieve tournament scalability easier than others, meaning squad in those districts can more easily 'take their ball and stay home' without paying a competitive price for their students.

A modest proposal to get things going: attendance at at least one tournament in all 8 NDT districts is an eligibility requirement for applying for a first or second round to the NDT.  Not saying that's the best way forward and I can see a few problems immediately, but it will hopefully get people talking
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Paul Elliott Johnson
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« Reply #2 on: September 26, 2012, 09:18:04 PM »

I think 8 is too many (some squads don't even go to 8 tournaments before the district process) but making some kind of percentage play into it could work. 75% of districts must be visited or something.

Jonah is right: voluntary solutions fall prey to a prisoner's dilemma.

There are some barriers: good regional tournaments are easier to host in Districts 6, 7, 5, and 8, because the drives are a lot shorter...so many of the Western locations are still unmanageable drives. Having some mechanism to funnel national teams to those regions is a move in the direction of equitability.

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cramhelwich
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Posts: 67


« Reply #3 on: September 26, 2012, 10:35:32 PM »

Two caveats:
1) We sent teams both UMKC and GSU (might be the only program that did so), and sent our more experienced teams to GSU--clearly did not vote with our feet. I am willing to discuss our rationale via backchannel if anyone is interested.
2) UMN is geographically disadvantaged (nothing like Whitman, but still)--it is a 6.5hr drive from the Cities to Chicago or Kansas City, and there are hardly a wealth of "regional" tournaments in the neighborhood. We would clearly benefit from most imaginable schedule reforms.

That said, the number and geographic distribution of majors both have serious problems. There are too many "must" tournaments (9 unless you get a pass through districts). They stretch out the calendar, force students to miss too much class time, and escalate "buy in" costs for programs who want a national profile.

Either of the Bruschke proposals (4 mega regions, consolidation to six regions--designated 'bid' tournaments in each region) would help address this problem. I believe that they are worth reconsidering.

As Gordon Stables frequently says, there's never a good time in the calendar to discuss meta-community issues, and 9 days out from KY is hardly ideal, but if not now, when?

best,
dch

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Whit
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Posts: 79


« Reply #4 on: September 26, 2012, 11:08:13 PM »

Just a couple of thoughts:

Even if you think D6 should lose a major national, why GSU? Atlanta has a major international airport that saves people money on flights.

Even if you think other districts are in need of national tournaments, why D3? They already get half the bids to the NDT. Why make it easier on them? Smiley

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Paul Elliott Johnson
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Posts: 134


« Reply #5 on: September 26, 2012, 11:16:36 PM »

Just a couple of thoughts:

Even if you think D6 should lose a major national, why GSU? Atlanta has a major international airport that saves people money on flights.

This is good point and worth of discussion

Even if you think other districts are in need of national tournaments, why D3? They already get half the bids to the NDT. Why make it easier on them? Smiley

I assume this second point is a joke, because of the smiley face. If not, well, if you're going over budget to get to the NDT in that distrct every year, that still sucks


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GFrappier
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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2012, 12:38:27 AM »

"designated 'bid' tournaments in each region"

this. each district gets to designate a tournament as their "qualifier" for a given year. only those 8 tournaments are included on bid sheets. this idea gained a lot of traction a few years ago thanks to the work of jon and others, and then kinda lost steam as the pro free market crowd put up quite a fuss. apparently our community is very anti regulation when it comes to travel schedules.
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jonahfeldman
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Posts: 96


« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2012, 06:32:18 AM »

The discussion of the logistics of how a bid system to promote regional distribution would work is great and I hope it continues.  But, I want to make sure that we don't lose the fundamental premise at the core of the issue while disagreeing about some of the details.  

The regional distribution of tournaments is heavily skewed in favor of the southeast.  This is an undeniable fact.  The only question is whether or not you consider this to be a problem.  Who are the people that think this is not a problem?  Who are the defenders of the free market that Frappier alluded to that defeated the Bruschke push?  What are your args?

Once a critical mass is reached on this issue then it becomes a matter of how, not if.  I have no doubt that the "how" issues will be complex but it seems easier to fully hash that out once there is some agreement that this needs to be done.  


@Whit - Accepting this proposal does not necessarily mean that GSU isn't the designated tournament for D6.  I think this issue should be approached with all options on the table.  I would imagine GSU, UMKC, or whatever tournaments were chosen would be flexible about dates.

@DCH - I agree that having 8 "must" tournaments would be too many.  Perhaps people could be allowed to miss one or two if they were able to provide a good reason and "I went to a different tournament instead" is not an acceptable reason.  Any chance you could rehash the mega regions/6 regions debate for those of us who weren't involved in the original discussion.

If not now, when?  Rabbi Hillel couldn't have said it better himself.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 09:11:50 AM by jonahfeldman » Logged
antonucci23
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Posts: 138


« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2012, 07:01:47 AM »

"designated 'bid' tournaments in each region"

this. each district gets to designate a tournament as their "qualifier" for a given year. only those 8 tournaments are included on bid sheets. this idea gained a lot of traction a few years ago thanks to the work of jon and others, and then kinda lost steam as the pro free market crowd put up quite a fuss. apparently our community is very anti regulation when it comes to travel schedules.

I missed this whole discussion, and may have been coaching high school at the time.

Where is a good place to find the proposal details?  I assume it's just this, essentially - wholesale replacement for current system?

I don't know if it's a good or bad idea.  I can definitely imagine more efficient regulatory designs.  I can also imagine "phase-in" designs that would provoke substantially less backlash.

I strongly agree with the core principle that a completely free market in debate tournaments is toxic in the long term.
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Whit
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Posts: 79


« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2012, 08:19:33 AM »

Just a couple of thoughts:

Even if you think D6 should lose a major national, why GSU? Atlanta has a major international airport that saves people money on flights.

This is good point and worth of discussion
Then please discuss. So far I've only heard, "I'm sure D3 would be willing to take any of D6's tournaments." I got the sense from facebook and forum posts that there was every intention to host UMKC on top of GSU again next year and that this was all a push to get more people to come to UMKC.

Why was the decision made to go after GSU? The justifications just don't seem to make sense in this case. There are other D6 tournies that are more expensive to travel too.

Even if you think other districts are in need of national tournaments, why D3? They already get half the bids to the NDT. Why make it easier on them? Smiley

I assume this second point is a joke, because of the smiley face. If not, well, if you're going over budget to get to the NDT in that distrct every year, that still sucks

Perhaps more tongue in cheek than joke, but I don't know how to do that emoticon. But seriously, D3 has a vibrant regional schedule and is not struggling competitively. Why are they first in line to get a major national? Seems like we're robbing the rich to give to the richer. The Texas two step already competes with the coast (the west coast's only major national) and Texas already competes with Northwestern (our district's only major national...even if on amicable terms).
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andreareed
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Posts: 101


« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2012, 09:45:21 AM »

Well, I for one am glad that this conversation is now taking place in public rather than behind closed doors.  I totally agree with the problem identified (OMGeez, someone in D6 actually agrees that we have a geographic benefit to us that raises costs for others not in D6, has your head exploded yet???).

My comment here is more meta.  The trash talking of coaches about other coaches, programs about other programs, tournaments about other tournaments has got to stop.  The current level of discourse in the community is really low right now, which is sort of pathetic given that we are a bunch of communication experts.  My specific request is that I'd ask that the people spreading the rumor that UK threatened NU and Georgetown's round robin invitations if they didn't go to GSU to stop immediately.  This was apparently a popular topic of conversation at the UMKC tournament.  Its really quite low, and I would have hoped, obviously a vicious and unbelievable lie.  I've heard this is being used as evidence that D3 should also get to take the Kentucky tournament too.  If people are going to advance arguments in favor of this proposal, it would strengthen this position to use quality args rather than lies.  Just saying.

Ross said debate is fundamentally about people, but sadly, I'm really not feeling that right now.  Our community is small.  Maybe too small.  We lose programs every year.  If we think we can continue to be a healthy activity while also cannibalizing ourselves, I'm quite scared for our future.  I know we can be better than this.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 09:52:34 AM by andreareed » Logged
jonahfeldman
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Posts: 96


« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2012, 09:58:12 AM »

Witt.

Please help me understand a little bit more about what your objective is.

Is your objective to preserve the Georgia State tournament?  If so, then if anything ever comes of the regional distribution proposals discussed in this thread than you should definitely make a case that it should be one of the tournaments that gets designated as part of the bid evaluation process.  I also think it's worth recognizing that even though there are tournaments on the existing schedule that are good tournaments, it's possible to have a travel schedule that also has good tournaments but in more regionally diverse locations.

Is your objective to limit the number of tournaments in D3?  The proposal I'm suggesting would have one major tournament in D3.  They currently have .5 major tournaments.  Doesn't it seem reasonable that a district of their size have at least one major tournament there?  If you are invested in seeing regions that are struggling get more tournaments (stealing from the rich and giving to the poor) than you should definitely be on board with moving some of the D6 tournaments to regions that don't have any major tournaments there right now.

While the UMKC vs GSU contest was formative for my understanding on this issue, for me this is not fundamentally about UMKC vs GSU but rather the way the schedule is determined for the whole year.  I guess I'm just asking you to broaden your perspective a little bit beyond merely UMKC vs GSU but rather to see the overall issue that this dispute is indicative of.

« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 10:04:25 AM by jonahfeldman » Logged
Ermo
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Posts: 243


« Reply #12 on: September 27, 2012, 10:21:07 AM »

Perhaps more tongue in cheek than joke, but I don't know how to do that emoticon. But seriously, D3 has a vibrant regional schedule and is not struggling competitively. Why are they first in line to get a major national? Seems like we're robbing the rich to give to the richer. The Texas two step already competes with the coast (the west coast's only major national) and Texas already competes with Northwestern (our district's only major national...even if on amicable terms).

A coordinated solution, via the NDT Committee or otherwise, could address the concerns which led to UMKC, as well as Whit's concerns, and perhaps other concerns as well (weather, facilities, etc.). The various "designate" solutions could also factor in airfare and other total-cost factors.

Such proposals could be formal and binding, but they could also be less formal. If a plurality of 1st round voters announced well in advance (e.g. please don't do this for fall 2012) they would primarily consider a specific list of tournaments for their elim depth metric*, the effect would be huge. It's not exactly comparable, but many high school programs evaluate possible tournaments by the number of TOC bids.

I'm not convinced that tournaments which impact 2nd rounds more than 1st rounds present the same concerns, as that travel schedule is a bit more diverse. I'm certainly not opposed to discussing that as well.

The designate proposals thus far have discussed primarily invitationals. Rounds robins play a significant role in the SQ, and have a nice cost-to-significant round ratio (significant = likely to impact the bid sheet of attending teams). The fact that Pitt drew such strong attendance last year illustrates that many agree.

*I'm not presently one of them, and I'm not sure this is a good way to do it. My point is that there are many more options available than have been discussed thus far.
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Adam Symonds
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Posts: 349


« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2012, 10:23:34 AM »

Couple of thoughts pertaining to this discussion:

1. Geography x Cost is really the calculation that we need to make. Certainly, the majors are geographically concentrated in one region - that adds significant cost to the travel of anyone running a program that is mid-West to West. The northeast has to fly to those tournaments as well. But we should also be considering geography in terms of the cost of airports, travel time from airports to tournaments, and the cost of food and hotel in a location. That being said, if we move to a regional designation system, we are likely to find ourselves traveling to some locations that address geographical diversity but may very well add costs in terms of these other components. It's a tough balance to strike, but ideally districts select more logistically convenient locations.

2. I agree with the general broad outlines of a system that designates tournaments that count. I also agree that 8 majors is probably too many. However, I am worried that a push to re-district in order to construct mega regions is a bit too ambitious to generate support or adoption. Without redistricting, I think we could still ask every existing district to designate one tournament for the year that would count for the purposes of first and second round rankings. Instead of requiring teams to attend ALL of those tournaments, however, we could say that the minimum attendance threshold for application for a bid is 5 or 6. In fact, if we were worried about built in incentives for teams to attend all 8, we could even say that the maximum that will be counted is 6.

3. T Cram is a smart guy. We do sink or swim together. Currently, geography of the west is making it hard for folks to keep their heads above water. More than 15 years ago the NDT numbers were dwindling and the decision was made to adopt the CEDA resolution to reinvigorate the community. UMKC's tournament this weekend demonstrated there are more teams out there there waiting for a chance to debate. GSU had about 140 teams this weekend last year. Between both tournaments there were more like 260 that competed last weekend. Guaranteeing that there are high quality, large, well-attended tournaments across the country means more of those teams get to travel on less money. It also means we start sharing a little of more of the cost burden for maintaining competitive teams. I know we all have to be constantly vigilant about our own teams' self-interest out of sheer self-preservation, but advanced planning seems like a better strategy for preserving programs than writing letters at the zero hour when a program is about to go belly up.
« Last Edit: September 27, 2012, 10:26:33 AM by Adam Symonds » Logged
Malgor
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« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2012, 10:31:42 AM »

The purpose of the UMKC tournament is to get a yearly national tournament in D3. No one in D3 has ever been secretive about this. The decision to go on top of GSU was pragmatic.  It seemed that more people were willing to leave the GSU tournament.  Hell, UMKC wasn't even our first choice-the problem is the largest schools in our district either have airports harder to access or, more importantly, would be on top of local football games (OU, Texas) some seasons making hotel and travel arrangements very cost ineffective.

Whit, if your point is that D3 deserves no national tournament, I couldn't disagree more.  D3 is an important part of the college community.  Yes, we have many regional tournaments, but no national tournament.  There is no "must attend" D3 tournament for a team competing for a first round.  There is a real problem in equity if a district that frequently supplies 1/3 - 1/4 of the first rounds, and usually clears 7-9 teams into the outrounds of college debate's most competitive tournament, is forced to go travel to another district 3 times.  Why all this respect for D6?  WHERE'S THE LOVE FOR US?!?

All of your concerns are things that can easily be re-structured.  If GSU needs to stay, that's a conversation d6 and the rest of the community could have. If you don't think there is a big enough national tournament on the west coast, that's another conversation we can have.  As someone who has been pushing for d3 to fight for a national tournament for several years, it's all about the first rounds.  Teams love the first rounds.  Everyone wants to be one, or debate one, and for some reason people think the value of a debate tournament without first rounds is incredibly low.  This has never made sense to me since most teams will never debate said first rounds at a kentucky tourn etc, but it is an undeniable pulling mechanism.  It took us several seasons to get full buy in from d3, and it was pretty awesome that all of the d3 directors stuck by their word. I couldn't be more proud of our district for that.

Personally, I think we should keep things split in the middle AND at the top.  What is the harm of having a couple of weekends each semester where the community is split?  Would it have been the end of the world if 12 first round applicants were at GSU and 12 were at UMKC?  When did we stop caring about getting more college students involved in argumentation?  When did the focus come on following the whims of 32 students, instead of the other 100s that debate?

Think of it this way- this last weekend there were more teams debating at that time than any year previous.  In 2011 GSU had 120 open teams.  This year they were just under 100 and we were just above 80.  That doesn't include two medium sized jv divisions and novice.  As educators, shouldn't we be proud that more students were learning the benefits of argumentation on this weekend than ever before?  And if you split the teams at the top, both tournaments would likely get larger still!

I have no illusions this would ever happen- the first round process is the shiny object that completely determines the directions of a lot of programs every year, even those who don't get first rounds.  But damn, can't we center this conversation more about quality AND quantity of competition?
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