Bid Accessibility: An empirical analysis

 by David McGinnis

Update: I discovered another math error; a Los Angeles local was counted twice. The resulting changes are reflected in the updated charts.

I don’t honestly know if the relative geographic accessibility of TOC bids matters. National debate competition is by its nature expensive, and relatively few school districts prioritize it. The vast majority of high schools in the US do not participate in the national debate circuit at all. Many schools that do participate have to expend tremendous resources of time, energy and money.

Regional bid distribution is also not simply a matter of identifying those regions that are under-served and bestowing TOC bids upon them. Some regions simply don’t have debate tournaments interested in or capable of hosting a major regional or national event. Other regions may have large, well-run tournaments but are not interested in national-level competition. Several states, such as Kansas, have well-developed in-state debate circuits with many excellent teams, but do little or no out-of-state travel. These locations might not welcome the “honor” of having TOC bid status bestowed upon a local event.

But a lot of people approach discussions of the TOC bid tournament announcement as though it does matter, with numerous arguments forwarded regarding the legitimacy of the bid list based on how many bids are available to schools in various regions.

The relative geographic accessibility of TOC bids is a clearly empirical question, so I decided to break the TOC map down by region and see which regions are truly advantaged and disadvantaged in terms of geographic accessibility of TOC bids.


Operational Definitions

I defined as distinct “regions” any major city location from which a debater has attended the TOC in the past three years. Roughly speaking, a region is defined as inclusive of an area 50 miles from the major-city center. For example, New York City is its own region, but a small number of students have attended the TOC from cities more than 50 miles north of New York, so I created a separate region (“North of NYC”) to include these schools (Newburgh Free, for instance.)

A “home town” tournament is defined as one that a school in a region can attend without necessarily renting hotel rooms. For the purposes of this analysis, a tournament is considered “home town” if it takes place within one hour’s drive of a region. I selected this measure based on personal experience suggesting that most teams will travel to and from a tournament that is an hour or less away, rather than rent hotel rooms. This is not a perfect definition; there are some occasions that may call for a school to get hotel rooms despite the proximity of a tournament. Two such instances leap to mind: First, many schools get hotel rooms for major elimination events such as National Qualifiers, even if they are close to home. Coaches may select this option to ensure that students remain focused and get adequate sleep. Second, many Twin Cities area schools stay at the Blake tournament hotel because the event and its hotel location are integral aspects of the competition. That said, most teams under most circumstances would drive to an event an hour or less away, so those events are considered “home town” for the purposes of this analysis.

A “driving” tournament is one to which schools could reasonably drive, rather than having to purchase plane tickets, but one which is far enough away that schools would have to rent hotel rooms for overnight stays. This was harder to define, because different schools have different tolerances for drive length. For example, the Valley program will drive to any event that is within a 12 hour drive, including north Texas tournaments and the TOC. I suspect that few schools are willing to drive so far, however. I decided that a “driving” tournament would be any event farther away than one hour but within eight hours’ drive. There is of necessity some arbitrariness to this, and some schools will fly to tournaments much closer. SF Bay area schools and Los Angeles schools, for example, frequently fly to and from each others’ events despite the fact that they are separated by drives of between five and seven hours. This is due to a combination of factors: plane tickets between SFO and LAX are inexpensive, the drive through the mountains can be difficult, particularly at night; and schools in some areas of those cities are less tolerant of students’ missing school, so an after-school flight is preferable to many than a day-long drive. That said, it is reasonably possible to drive to a tournament that is eight hours away, and many schools do so. So for the purposes of this analysis, a tournament within eight hours’ drive is considered “drivable” regardless of whether particular schools choose to drive that distance.


Other Considerations

In many cases, major TOC bid tournaments are hosted by very active national circuit teams. It’s important to bear in mind that, given the norm operating against a school competing at its own tournament, those schools are at a disadvantage in terms of accessibility to home town events. For instance, while Dallas, TX has the greatest in-town tournament accessibility of any region, the same is not true for Greenhill because they are barred by norm from attending their own tournament, thus they have access to 16 fewer in-town bid opportunities compared to other Dallas-area schools.

Another issue not addressed here is the relative expense of air travel. An interesting analysis might compare the average cost of plane tickets out of major airports within regions. For instance, large hubs like Los Angeles offer generally less expensive travel than smaller markets like Des Moines.



The first table shows the distribution of bid tournaments by region with the regions ordered by home-town tournament accessibility.


As you can see, the region with the greatest access to home-town bid opportunities is Dallas, TX with 38 available bids in-town. Dallas is followed by the SF Bay Area with 32, New York with 28, and then a series of regions with 24 or 20: the Twin Cities, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Des Moines.

Several regions that have generated TOC competitors have no access to in-town bid opportunities, including: North of NYC; Philadelphia, PA; Albany, NY; Kansas City, MO; San Diego, CA; Nashville, TN; and Denver, CO. As we’ll see in later data, most of these regions have generated only a handful of TOC participants over the past few years.

The second table orders the same data set by bid availability within 8 hours’ drive.


Here Chicago leads with 70 bids available, while a large number of regions have availability in the high 60s: New York, Boston, North of NYC, Philadelphia, Albany, Los Angeles, the Twin Cities, Des Moines and Iowa City. The SF Bay Area, which led in terms of in-town bid availability, falls lower in this measure because unlike Los Angeles it is not within 8 hours’ drive of several southwestern bids, such as Meadows and Golden Desert.

The graph combines all the data.



There are a lot of places in the country with few or no in-town bid opportunities, but most places in the country can drive to at least some. The only region in the country to have sent debaters to the TOC in the last three years that has to fly to every bid tournament is Denver.

Students in northern and southern California, the northeast, the midwest, and north Texas all have no business complaining about the availability of bid tournaments. Students in the south can forward a reasonable claim that they have comparatively few regional bid opportunities, as can those in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado.



In terms of bid accessibility, is a region better served by a semis or finals bid, or by an octos bid? At many octos bid tournaments, the lion’s share of the bids end up going to schools from outside the region or state. Semis and finals bids tend to draw more locally. Another study that might be interesting would look to how many students attend the TOC having received bids from these smaller regional events.

When a region clamors for a bid opportunity, what is the goal? For the host school, there are non-competitive opportunities associated with being granted a bid, along with competitive opportunity costs. Hosting a bid tournament is prestigious and potentially profitable. For non-host schools, is the primary goal of pursuing bid opportunities to make it to the TOC, or to have the opportunity to face tougher competition at a local or regional event? Students in the Chicago area, for example, have easy access to an octos bid tournament and can drive to more bids than any other region in the country, yet in the past three years, only two Chicago-area LD debaters have attended the TOC.

Given all the factors that determine suitability of a tournament for bid status, is “regional equity” a reasonable goal? If “regional equity” is one among many factors determining whether a bid goes to a particular tournament, how important is it relative to other considerations?

How does regional bid distribution compare to concentration of debate competitors? If we mapped the areas that have the most competitive debaters, would we find that those areas with the highest concentration of debate competitors match the areas with the largest number of available bids? Does this matter?



  • I think Rebar’s point about the Halo
    effect is interesting here since a handful of debaters in the bottom 20 also
    had teammates in the top 20 or attend programs that send lots of students. I
    don’t know if that means it’s regressing towards the mean, or if it simply
    proves that having a good team is a benefit.  It’s also difficult to tell whether or not
    some of these individuals lack of success is at all related to being forced to
    run B and C strats so that their higher caliber teammates don’t get prepped
    out? (I’m not sure if this actually happens, this is just pure speculation)

    Also, I think it’s important to note, as Fritz mentioned, where these debaters
    got their bids rather than where they attend high school since the discussion
    concerns geographic bid strength.

  • So…. bids for Denver then? K thx. 

  • Rebar Niemi

    just doing a lil rough analysis following christian’s suggestion – 10 of the bottom 14 debaters at the 2012 TOC were from texas, california, and new york. of those 10, 1 was new york, 5 were california, and 4 were from texas. so i guess the biggest bid regions also have the softest bids. if you include the bottom 20 debaters, the numbers are

    8 cali – (brentwood x 2, college prep, harvard westlake x 3, loyola, mvla)
    5 texas – (flower mound, cy woods, hockaday x 2, pflugerville)
    2 new york (bronx science, scarsdale)
    2 wa – (bainbridge, wenatchee)
    1 mn – (apple valley)
    1 ab – (mountain brook)
    1 la – (benjamin franklin)

    in one year there does not seem to be anywhere near enuff data … and this data generates obvi false conclusions like reduce amt of bids in the south, texas, wa, and cali… i don’t think we should do those things. 

    but my far too soon conclusions would be

    1. several of the debaters from texas/ny/cali had at least 1 teammate who also qualified, in some cases more than that. it seems like if we were really interested in parity we would cap the # of qualifiers from a school at something like 3 or 4 because there does not seem to necessarily be corresponding depth to a large # of qualifiers… and there is possibly a halo effect from having good teammates that inflates performance over time but not necessarily individual performance at the most serious tourney of the year. on the other hand this punishes peeps what who just happen to go to a good school and that’s no good.

    personally, i think this would be harsh but possibly work – although i do NOT defend this as a solution and really think someone should look at the last 5 years at least. 

    2. i think we should be less concerned about representing “per capita good debaters” in a bid level because that is unquantifiable in large part and also potentially emotionally fraught, and more concerned about ensuring # of bid opportunities represents some measure of geographic parity. 

    3. it is impossible to get into this without getting into a discussion about privilege and economic considerations – it is no surprise to me that the majority of bid tournaments are located in affulent/suburban areas, and correspond to historical seats of power of the white/wealthy/landed/educated. 

    4. i personally believe that the NE has too many bids in a volume way, but not in a “corresponding to the goodness of their debaters” way. the best thing to do would be just increase the # of bids/size of TOC and add a full doubles (maybe increase the pool to like 120). but that’s not going to happen, so we will end up leaving someone out in the cold. in my opinion it would be better for there to be more areas with bid access rather than concentrating bids in certain areas, even if they are powerhouses. it would be preferable for less NE kids to qual than arguably should, just as it would be preferable for less TX kids to qual than arguably should – because harder qualifying means only the most quality of debaters are represented. if our intention is to spread access while separating the chaff from the grain (or however that saying goes), then it seems wise to reallocate bids so that they are more equitably geographically distributed – even if that leaves high density and competition areas “under served”

    5. people seem to think that good debaters = more bids, but has anyone ever considered that bid access is a feedback loop that leads to more good debaters? if you have the opportunity to go to TOC as a non-senior, you automatically get experience competing on a level that not many other underclassmen have. i think you would find that in almost every region of the country, increasing bid levels would lead to “better” debaters and more “better debaters” than had previously resided there. i just think we have to account for the fact that it works both ways, not that bids will instantaneously increase the amount of good debate

    • John Scoggin

      Cali and Texas also qualified the most debaters, if you send 18 debaters some of them are going to be at the bottom.

      • Rebar Niemi

        yea i agree, i think that you’d find that whatever regions qualify the most will have large representation throughout the distribution of records every year – seems to either speak to spreading bids out/not concentrating them, or that this mechanism for measuring bid worthiness is stupid

        personally i lean toward the latter. 

        • I’m also not sure how looking at the bottom 1/5 of the TOC pool determines the ease of bids in a certain area, especially when we’re talking about a region like SoCal, where pretty much everyone has to go elsewhere to get bids. 

          Also, what does it mean if a certain region (like California) has a lot of debaters at the bottom, but also has a lot of debaters in out rounds?

          • Anonymous

            It means that the law of large numbers is true and that your region is regressing to the mean.

  • Dave – Thanks for all your work on this. I hope that you continue to keep putting these analyses together as the only real way to make anything of any of this is to have more longitudinal data. Two years is nice, ten years helps to see things other than a debater or school pop up and/or disappear.

    • Dave McGinnis

      Thank you!

  • The true takeaway from this is that Colorado needs more bids especially considering their performance at TOC this year. I know absolutely nothing about Colorado debate and tournaments but somebody get a tournament to apply! There are clearly very talented kids that are getting really screwed over as a result of the system.

    •  One thing you need to know, however, is that there is a very strong, traditional culture here that is very much against national circuit debate and oblivious of the TOC. To be honest, Sam, Matt, and I are rare exceptions (although hopefully that will change).

      • FWIW, I hosted a TOC Qualifying LD and Policy debate tournament at the University of Colorado in Boulder for five years.  The tournament went out of business (by and large) due to the lack of support from local teams.  Local coaches felt slighted that we invited teams from all over the US to participate in the event and adjacent LD Round Robin.  One coach wrote me to say that we should not have called the event “The Colorado Classic” because the tournament had many competitors from outside of Colorado.  While some of the larger teams in the state religiously sent teams to see us, they were in the vast minority.  Strangely enough, it was those teams who came to that event who have legacies of strong performance today.

      •  What’s funny is that we did have a tournament apply for a bid I believe
        and it did not recieve one in LD (Finals in PF though). The tournament
        had approximately 65 competitors in LD from 3-4 different states and had
        decent quality judging (although CO judging norms can make it difficult
        without larger circuit participation).

        Also, Alex is right that CO is fairly isolated from the circuit and our two schools (Kent and GW) are the only ones that really travel nationally. I can’t speak for Kent, but I know we have at least one person who enjoys circuit debate but is struggling to succeed due to lack of exposure and experience since it is costly to travel and so we are limited to 2-3 times per year (I was able to do more thanks to the hospitality and generosity of certain individuals in the community and intense support from my parents). I feel like part of the reason the CO debate community is very traditional is because almost nobody is exposed to circuit debate because I have talked to quite a few people who are excited by the concept of the circuit but lack to means to ever participate in it because their schools/coaches don’t understand it. I’m not saying that arbitrarily giving bids to CO area tournaments is the solution, but it’s something to consider that the circuit may be losing talented individuals because certain regions of the country (not just CO) lack exposure to the circuit.

  • John Scoggin

    Upon further examination it seems that the NE is in fact not the most over saturated region for bids in the country, it is in fact Des Moines Iowa.

    A City of 200,000 people has as many 1-hour bids as Los Angeles. In addition to the huge population disparity, only 1 debater in the last 2 years has had a winning record at TOC and they did not clear.

    The midwest as a whole has been underperforming as of late (no outround participant in the last two years) and your data seems to suggest that areas like Chicago, Des Moines, and the Twin cities have some of the highest access to bids in the nation. Given this it makes sense to me that some bid tournament in the midwest ought to be reduced. The Glenbrooks is in my opinion the best tournament of the year, and the only tournament in the major city of Chicago, so that should probably stay where it is. Apple Valley is one of the most efficiently run tournaments and consistently is one of the top octos tournaments of the year.

    That seems to leave one tournament in the small city of Des Moines as the logical candidate for reduction; the Valley Mid-America cup. Given that Des Moines debaters have as many bids within an 8 hour window as Southern California debaters, and have the added advantage that all of those bids are within a 5.5 hour drive of Des Moines, they would have the least basis to complain as per your analysis in the article.

    • John, I’m pretty sure you understand that this doesn’t make sense–Des Moines debaters don’t have *exclusive* access to every single bid in the Midwest region, just as Loyola debaters don’t have exclusive access to every bid in California…even typing that last sentence feels kind of ridiculous, but just to state the obvious…

      More to the point, though, a couple of potentially productive thoughts to contribute to this discussion (with the caveat that I’ve read almost none of the other thread):

      (1) When we talk about the fairness of bid distributions, there are two important considerations which, more often than not are at least orthogonal if not directly opposed to each other. One is providing access to national circuit debate to a region of the country, with the hope of either building up national debate over time or at least giving it the chance to build. The other is making sure that from one tournament to another, and one region to another, bids are more or less similarly difficult, averaged out over time.

      The first consideration sometimes provides reason for ignoring the second–even if a given region isn’t currently producing TOC-level debaters, and hasn’t for a while, there’s still some reason to provide the opportunity. And in this respect, the relevant consideration is probably the number of debaters/debate programs active in the region, for which total population can act as a crude proxy.

      The second consideration, though, depends on the actual depth of TOC-level competition in a region. That’s something which we know varies dramatically from year to year, and gradually comes to vary over longer timeframes as well (e.g. the Northeast getting stronger over the last 5-7 years). And it’s determined by a very small number of players–maybe 10-12 schools per region, give or take, that regularly produce debaters who compete for TOC bids.

      The debate that seems to have erupted, I take it, has mostly to do with the second consideration rather than the first–both California and the Northeast are at least well enough served with bids to maintain active national circuits, so their complaints (if either region has legitimate complaints) are different in kind and not just degree from the complaints that, say, an Alaska debater might have about lack of bid access (in that the Alaska debater’s case would not be based on a track record of Alaska consistently producing TOC-level debaters–and note for the record that I’m not suggesting Alaska should receive bids for equity reasons, either).

      (2) In light of all that, it seems like people may be talking past each other to a certain extent, for the following reason: Looking at the total number of bids in a given area is a good way of assessing whether that area has basic access to the national circuit, but it doesn’t say very much about how equitable that access is because it doesn’t account for quality of competition. One region may just have stronger competitors than another (on average over time…), or its bid tournaments may be inordinately competitive because they attract out-of-region competition. As Dave suggests, regional strength of competition is more relevant at finals and semis bids, national draw more relevant at octos bids (and quarters bids can go either way).

      Anyway, though, it seems to me like there’s an easy and obvious measure of which region has the easiest bid access: namely, looking at the bottom of the TOC pool. If a region consistently qualifies debaters to the TOC who get beat by the rest of the field, that’s an indication that that region has relatively soft bids. The fact that a particular debater finished in the left tail of the TOC results distribution isn’t proof that they shouldn’t have been there (and, not that it needs saying, but every debater at the TOC is extremely talented), but on average, the bottom of the results should capture more of the kids who are on the fringe of being top-80 nationally, the regions which send the most debaters at that level to the TOC are presumably the ones with the easiest bids, and conversely the regions where the fewest borderline debaters are able to quality are the ones with the hardest bids.As far as I can see, the rest of the TOC results are just about completely irrelevant to determining bid distributions: someone who goes 3-4, 4-3 or better at the TOC is clearly good enough that they should have qualified, so by sending them to the TOC, the bid system was doing its job, period. If one finals bid duplicates the TOC finals, and another duplicates a TOC bump round, both tournaments gave bids to debaters who deserve them. So I don’t see the point of arguing over which region has cleared the most debaters, or won the most TOCs, or whatever, as if it indicates something about ideal bid distributions.

      Anyhow, I haven’t looked at the data, and I don’t have it, but if those of you who are really invested in this Cali vs. NE thing really wanted to settle it, my suggestion would be to get the last 5-10 years of TOC packets, look at the bottom 10-15 finishers in each year, and see where the competitors in the left end of the distribution are coming from. Unless those data are really dramatic, though, I’d be wary of drawing any really strong conclusions about bid distributions, since things do change so much that it may not be terribly predictive.

      Anyone, those are my two cents, and an hour well wasted…

      • John Scoggin

        It was Dave’s argument the amount of bids you have within 8 hours driving creates the basis for whether or not you can complain for more bids. I was just saying under his own logic that would mean that Des Moines has the absolute least case to call for more bids. This isn’t even taking into account that LA is 20x bigger than Des Moines. This is relevant because not 1 year ago Dave McGinnis personally argued for more bids in Des Moines and got them.

        In what world is that not hypocritical?

        Also I am making the point that given that SoCal has become so much stronger and again has 20x the population, it seems ridiculous that there are the same amount of ‘in-town’ bids for Des Moines debaters as LA debaters. Seems like since there was 1 Iowa debater in the last 2 years that managed to get to 4-3, and no midwest debaters getting to out rounds they are probably due for some bid decreases. Can you honestly tell me that you would go to AV or GBN before Valley? I think not. Valley should go back to being a quarters bid.

        • Dave McGinnis

          My thesis from the beginning has been that the major determinant of bid distribution should be quality of tournament, not regional equity: 

          “Regional bid distribution is also not simply a matter of identifying those regions that are under-served and bestowing TOC bids upon them.”

          John, you seem to have it on the brain that the only reason to allocate a bid is the number of bids already in an area. When I say that bid-rich regions have no reason to complain about equity, that isn’t granting that equity is the primary concern. It’s just saying that coming from the perspective of someone who *is* concerned with equity, the regions of the country that have the most bid access aren’t in a position to complain. 
          My argument in favor of Valley receiving an octos bid was the the quality of the hospitality, competition, and judging justified the increase. If I had argued that Valley should get a bid because the Midwest didn’t already have enough of them, then, yes, that would have been hypocritical. But I never made that argument. 

          Our draw consists almost entirely of debaters from outside our region, and we work hard to make sure that they have the best experience possible. (We have that in common with both Apple Valley and Glenbrooks, which I agree are two of the best competitions in the country.)

          We run the Mid-America Cup as a service to the community. We gain nothing in terms of bid access. The tournament is a fundraiser for our team, but our receipts didn’t go up when we were elevated to an octos bid — we spent all of the increase on additional judges and awards for our sophomore Round Robin.So, in terms of personal benefit, it would be no skin off my nose if our bid were reduced. But it won’t be because we provide a high quality product and our guests appreciate it. We go out of our way to make sure that the judging is as good as it can be, to facilitate access for schools that otherwise couldn’t afford to attend, and to make sure that everyone is comfortable and happy.

          • John Scoggin

            If local bid concentration measured against national success should have nothing to do with future bid allocation then what is the point of this article?

          • Also, I just want to point something out. That regional distribution actually could be an argument in favor of a valley octas level bid since it allows for great accessibility to unsaturated regions to have access to octas bids. This year I was able to travel to valley (and earn one of my bids) there because it was relatively close compared to many of the other octas bid tournaments and made for cheaper plane tickets. Excluding hotel costs, Valley cost me $350 while the other octas bids I attended, Bronx and Berkeley, cost $600-700 out of pocket. There is, quite obviously a substantial difference for those of us who represent the most unsaturated regions of the country (Denver ftl)

          • Dave McGinnis

            We’re happy to have been of service! If there’s anything Valley can do to make the tournament continue to be accessible, just let me know.

      • Anonymous

        I think Christian poses some very interesting ideas in terms of follow-up analysis. Here are my suggestions to improve the data:

        Instead of just raw bid counts, I think people should also consider regional bid density. If LA and NYC each have access to 70 bids, say, but the LA bids are in tournaments with an average field of 150 v an average NYC field of 75, then that could indicate a difference in bid accessibility across region. In other words, we should examine the bids per capita, not just straight-up bid count. (NOTE: These figures are obviously hypothetical)

        I think another idea should be to determine what percentage of a tournament’s field hails from the tournament’s region. For example, NE debaters often complain about classifying Bronx and Harvard as NE tournies, since they have a larger national presence. This metric could indicate whether a certain region has better (or worse) access to its own bids than other regions do.

        These two metrics, in conjunction, could give a better evaluation of a region’s bid access [(# of bids) / (avg bid tourney field size)] * (% of field from within region)

        • Dave McGinnis

          That sounds like a good idea. When nationals are over and I have 3 weeks of essentially nothing to do, I might look into that. 

          I would guess that in terms of regional access to actually *receiving* bids, finals and semis bids pay off better. This is why I posed the question: what is the primary benefit to a region of an octos bid tournament? Is it access to the bid itself, or access to the higher level of competition that octos bids draw? For instance, a newer program in Des Moines might have little chance of getting the bid at Valley, but it might be their only opportunity during the year of competing against schools from Texas, Florida, California, etc. 

    • Anonymous

      There was a debater from the Midwest in octas of the TOC this year.

      • Dave McGinnis

        And of course if you go back three years there were two midwest debaters in finals, and if you go back from there, midwest debaters won the TOC three years in a row. And if you go back five years NorCal was dominant for half a decade or more. And if you go back to the late 1990s Valley was in the final round of the TOC four years running, winning it three times. This all goes in cycles. 🙂

        • John Scoggin

          I made this point in the other thread and no one bothered to answer. I’m not saying take all bids from the midwest (or NE for that matter) or something, but 1 debaters in outs in 2 years and it is unreasonable to advocate that one bid tournament go down one level?

    • Erik Baker

      Unless I had some crazy hallucination, I’m pretty sure I was in TOC outrounds this year. Although maybe I don’t count because one of my bids came in octas of Valley. 

      • John Scoggin

        It was supposed to say one not on.

  • Anonymous

    Fritz, your argument might be more compelling if you could point to a SoCal tournament that didn’t get a bid in favor of a Northeast one. What tournament in SoCal has applied for a bid/higher bid status lately?

    • The La Costa Canyon tournament, in San Diego, has been trying to get a finals bid in LD for a pretty long time now. It has a bid in literally every other event. Even without an LD bid, that tournament routinely has a field of close to 150, draws competition from Northern California, Nevada, and Arizona, has a tab room that has been run by Mike Bietz, and hires judges. There have always been TOC-level debaters in deep out-rounds at that tournament, as well. It’s probably the most competitive non-bid tournament in California. 

      At TOC, I was told that they were considering moving the Harker bids (or at least two of them) down to La Costa Canyon, but that didn’t end up happening. Also, when Harvard-Westlake got rid of its tournament, they compensated for the bid loss by “giving” USC its bid, which bumped USC up to a semis bid. But USC was really tough for a finals bid to begin with, and its still a pretty tough semis bid, so that didn’t really solve any problems. 

  • A student in Los Angeles, the second-largest metropolitan area in the country, which has also recently been churning out some of the best debaters in the country, has access to two fewer no-fly bids than a student in Albany, New York. But the Northeast totally isn’t over-saturated with bids or anything…

    • Dave McGinnis

      I don’t know if that’s intended as a criticism of the article, but I want to make a quick point:

      When I started putting this together, the discussion about bid distribution on the other thread hadn’t started yet. I still haven’t read all of those posts. The point of this article is *not* to advocate for one position or the other on the legitimacy of current bid distribution. I personally don’t think that the distribution is something you can solve for in strict equity terms. The only reason I put this analysis together was so that an intelligible discussion could be had.

      To that end, your point is possible given the nature of the analysis. 

      Is it wrong that LA students have access to fewer bids (without flying) than students in Albany? I guess my response would be that (A) the Albany student’s access is really only a side implication of access on the part of greater New York City, and New York is the *largest* metropolitan area in the country. It would be difficult to place a tournament that served greater New York but to which a debater from Albany could not drive.

      And, (B), I think that at the end of the day the larger question when it comes to placing bid tournaments is, which are the best tournaments? 

      And finally, (C), both greater New York and greater Los Angeles are very well-served by the current bid distribution. It’s definitely true that bid saturation is slightly higher in the northeast than it is in LA, but neither region is hurting for opportunities compared with the rest of the country. 

      If there is a SoCal tournament that you think should have a bid, then by all means encourage the tournament manager to apply for one. There is a reasonable amount of movement on bid allocations every year. 

  • Anonymous

    I am noticing a dearth in bid opportunities for students in Hawaii and Alaska. No wonder you never see any students from those states participating in the TOC. 

  • Anonymous

    Good article, interesting analysis. One small math correction – Las Vegas has 12 Hometown bids, not 24 – one Quarters, one Semis – that’s 8 + 4, so 12. That means the total of Hometown and Regional-Driving bids is 42, not 54. Not that this changes much, just a correction. 

    • Dave McGinnis

      I updated the charts to reflect… you know… addition skills. Thanks for the heads’ up!

      • I can’t tell if anyone’s said this already; but, it seems quite problematic to use bid allocation to react to current realities since locations of strong debate are ever-evolving.  Back in my day, Texas, Iowa/MN, and Alabama were LD debate mega centers.  Sure, there were other places that had good debaters, but they hardly won a ring at the TOC.  Then, other places got hot.  Northern Cali became a nice region with some very good students.  Southern Cali has gotten a lot better as has the Northeast, which has always been a popular punching bag in these discussions. 

        What to do when you’re trying to use past results to be forward thinking?  Your best option is to use stability as a major determining factor.  Will a program have a well-known coach with enough cache to continually host a great tournament?  Can 500+ people depend on your event to occur each year so that school/district permissions be secured?  Does the tab room have enough experience to manage a big event with tons of egos, flakes, drunks, stoners, misanthropes, and the like comprising a good chunk of your judging pool? 

        Is the midwest as good right now as it ever has been?  No.  Those are BIG shoes to fill in the history of event.  Will smart kids from Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska make a comeback?  Probably.  The fact that Valley has an Octos bid is a good thing because Dave McGinnis is the director.  He’s a “lifer” and has been around to see the peaks and valleys of debate.  You may or may not like him or agree with his positions, but he is deeply committed to debate as an educator and someone who cares about making this activity’s competitive side a good one. 

  • John Scoggin

    Real subtle with the picture of one of your graphs of arbitrarily chosen data with LA at the top as the featured picture, you are a class act.

    Maybe I’ll write and article titled: “Most Bids in Town vs. Population; why Des Moines needs to lose bids.”

    • Dave McGinnis

      They’re in order of total accessible bids. Either Chicago or LA was going to be first. I did that randomly. It’s just an empirical observation, not sure why you’re angry about it.

      • John Scoggin

        There are 4 pictures on this page. You chose the one that is in direct rebuttal to the comments I’ve been making on the other thread and just happened to put LA ahead of Chicago randomly. Why not the plane? Why not one of the Tables?

        I am mad because you took something that should have just been a reply to my comment, added a bunch of filler, and put a picture that disagrees with what I’ve been saying at the top of the website. And now you are lying to me about it being random.

        And all of this is not to mention that the graphic you are choosing to feature is just cherry picked data to contradict my point. You concede that a lot of LA schools fly to NorCal and that Valley drives anywhere under 12 hours. Yet you just chose the amount of time that includes NorCal bids as being close enough to SoCal. If you had chosen roughly 4 hours it would be 64 vs. 20. You chose the specific amount of time that it would take to make my point look wrong and then posted a graph with LA arbitrarily at the top.

        • Dave McGinnis

          I have no idea how the this program determines which graphic becomes the thumbnail. When I updated the charts to reflect the Las Vegas error, it changed… as far as I can tell, the thumbnail is by default the most recently input graphic. 

          If I had chosen a 4 hour drive time it would have been wildly inaccurate. Minneapolis schools don’t fly to Chicago, for example, and those cities are 7 hours and 20 minutes apart. And Chicago schools don’t fly to Des Moines. 

          You’re reacting as though my article is written as some sort of deliberate snub toward you. I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s not. And as you point out, *in my article* I make the argument that SoCal and NorCal schools are at an added disadvantage because a variety of factors move them to fly rather than drive… If I had the agenda you’re attributing to me, I wouldn’t have made those points.

          Finally I’m not sure why this issue — which is a fairly straightforward matter of empirical analysis — inspires so much anger. I don’t appreciate being called a liar.

  • Erik Baker

    This is all very fascinating, I appreciate it. I just want to say a word related to the situation with Chicago, especially since it was mentioned explicitly. I think it’s significant that Glenbrooks is the only “home-town” tournament, but Chicago still leads the nation in terms of driving bid opportunities. In my experience as one of those 2 Chicago debaters, almost all of these non-Glenbrooks tournaments were pretty close to 8 hour drives (although that could just be because our drives were slowed down significantly by my coach’s Coke addiction). So I think that the reason why Chicago has so many bid opportunities isn’t because the TOC committee has loaded the Chicago region with bids, it’s because Chicago’s kind of close to a lot of different places. This is just one more thing that should be considered: US geography is such that no matter how bids are distributed, by and large certain areas will inevitably have more opportunities through no fault of the TOC committee. 

    • Dave McGinnis

      I wasn’t being clear enough in my point re: Chicago. My point was supposed to be that Chicago area students have lots of “bid access” but with that comes lots of very tough competition — meaning that when an area hosts a large bidded tournament, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the students from that area gain a huge advantage in terms of ability to qualify to the TOC. The Glenbrooks, Apple Valley and Emory (formerly) are good examples of octos bid tournaments where the majority of bid recipients usually come from outside the area.

      So my point in mentioning that only 2 Chicagoans have qualled to the TOC wasn’t to suggest that Chicago doesn’t deserve its bid access, only that travel patterns being what they are, it may simply not matter *where* a bid is located as much as it matters how well the tournament is run.

      This wasn’t meant to be a dig at Chicago in any way. Remember — my thesis is that regional bid distribution probably doesn’t matter, and that if it does matter, it’s a very complicated question of how/why it matters. 

      I think that the popularity of and depth of competition in policy debate in the Chicago area probably has a lot to do with why Chicago hasn’t qualified a lot of LDers to the TOC as well. That’s just a random regional characterstic of the area.