TOC Will Use Seven Prelim Rounds

LEXINGTON, KY.—It’s official: TOC will use seven prelim rounds at this year. The same judging requirements still apply: 7 prelims, with 4 rounds of judging (or 8 flights) per entry.

Before 2011, the LD TOC has used seven preliminary rounds, with all 5-2s or better advancing (some to a run-off round, others directly to octafinals). Last year, the TOC implemented a rule change that shifted the tournament to eight preliminary rounds, with all 5-3s or better advancing (30 to an additional double-octafinal round, with only two advancing directly to octas).

  • I generally agree with Fritz.  Affirming in Round 7 sucks.  I think there should be either 8 or 6 prelims, each has it’s own pro and con.  6 rounds helps with judging issues, 8 helps for a better elim break.  Either way, I think one of those options is better than the Round 7 Aff situation.

    • Anonymous

      Why does eight help for a better elim break? Bietz’s data indicate that 6 would clear fewer than 8, which means you get the benefits of protecting the highest seeds (who would have byed in a 7 round system), fewer judges needed for the run-off, avoiding partial trips, etc.

      • I agree. I’m not necessarily in love with the idea of 8 prelims, I just think having en even number of prelims is better than having an odd number.

        • And that’s also a big thing for me, because it would suck to have an arbitrary factor like affirming vs negating in the last odd-numbered round. 

      • Unless I misinterpreted the 8-round concept, I meant the advantage was to lower-seeded debaters who might get the screw but instead are now given the ability to prove themselves in two more rounds – one aff, one neg.

        While that may not be universally, mathematically convenient, I think it would mean a great deal to those debaters who make it to the elim in a 5-3 and wouldn’t have made it in the 4-2.  Even if that’s a very small number, there’s only a very small number of students who get to compete at the ToC every year…

  • Anonymous

    I think a double elimination format, similar to that used at Nationals would be a great compromise.

    • Anonymous

      Why double elimination? March madness style yo

    • I like having 2 prelims, and a triple elim system

  • Having six prelims would mean less than a full dubs breaks, would mitigate side bias, and would save everyone 1 or 2 stressful rounds. It would also ease people’s judging commitment, which is a huge concern for resource-poor debaters who don’t have people that can easily fulfill their commitment. Why not have 6?

  • What a shame. 8 rounds seemed to be the far more preferred option.

    • Sophie Ruff

      Eight rounds appeared to be the preferred option in the poll, because that system is preferable for anyone who is not extremely confident in their ability to break in the seven round system – it allows ~30 debaters to advance to the runoff instead of ~20. I don’t think the results of that poll really show what is the better system.

      • Anonymous

        there were 273 people who voted for all 5-3’s. that is a lot more than just the people hopeful of breaking at the toc, and likely includes some percentage of those who debated under the old system who have experienced it first hand. i dont see what the metric is of a “better system” anyway, tournaments are in the business of serving their competitors, if most people want it one way then that seems to be the better system. 

      • Rebar Niemi

        ah yes, the selfish bias of those who are not good enough to break at toc. those devils – always trying to tear down us real champions. 

        • Sophie Ruff

          I have students too, who may or may not benefit from the eight round system, but I’m still trying to be objective in terms of what the fairest system is.

          • Rebar Niemi

            i mean, i agree we should be circumspect in our attempts to devise an equitable system, but seriously, you can’t actually believe that the NSD poll is biased because hella mid level toc debaters voted in it because they’re worried about the breaks. that just seems like an incredibly preconceived and intuitively premised idea.

            also – the poll isn’t distorted numbers wise unless you have a bunch of ips. we can only assume you and jeff are the minority and the silent majority favors the 2011 system. 

            although in retrospect that seems as silly as your conspiracy of dunces theorem. 

      • People don’t dislike the seven round system because of a lack of confidence in their abilities, they dislike the seven round system because, even if you’re a really good debater, affirming in round 7 is an uphill battle. Didn’t Bietz’s spreadsheet indicate that like 1/3 or so of affs win round 7?  

        • Sophie Ruff

          Right, and my point is that side bias is worse in the runoff than it is in round 7.

          • Side bias at pretty much any tournament is worse in elims than it is in prelims. Should we just skip elims and declare the top seed after prelims the winner?

          • Sophie Ruff

            No, I just think that we should have an odd number of prelims if we are going to have a partial doubles round.

            First of all, I hardly think that the 14 runoff rounds that happened last year are empirical evidence of side bias. Further, just bc 50% of affs won the run-off in no way indicates that there isn’t side bias. Side bias means that it is easier to win on neg than on aff, not that more negs win rounds than affs. You’ll notice that all of the higher seeds that were neg won their runoffs, and but that two higher seeds that were aff lost their runoff. I’m not saying this is a bad thing or shouldn’t happen or whatever, I’m just saying that 7 of 14 affs won is in no way evidence of side bias. Finally, my argument isn’t that side bias is WORSE in the runoff than it is in prelims (sorry if that’s what it sounded like, my fault for being unclear), but that side bias exists, and the effects of it are worse in a runoff round because it affects more people in an all or nothing manner.

          • Rebar Niemi

            i guess its a matter of how you would prefer to distribute harms. you can either favor distribution of arguably more severe harms to a smaller population of unlucky individuals, or spread a smaller degree of harm over a wider population. you seem to favor a situation that minimizes number affected while i would prefer something that affects a larger population with smaller qualitative harms. 

            but that all depends on how you weigh the harms. it looks like regardless of whether you’re right, you’re on the winning side sophie, so i hope you’re right. i bet next year they do six.

  • Rebar Niemi

    frankly i think this is totally whack and really an irrational over reaction by the TOC. there was literally zero wrong with the system used last year. larger sample sizes of rounds are more accurate. this is a basic statistical truth. i don’t know who cautioned them to switch back but i’m curious about their rationale, because i haven’t heard a single good argument in favor of 7. 

    as john scoggin once put it “if you really want to make the toc valid, do 6 rounds break to octas” 

    of course i’m paraphrasing but honestly 7 rounds is ridiculous.

    • Sophie Ruff

      Not to be repetitive, because I was just looking through old comments and Ross and Wade both made the point well, but it’s just false that there is literally zero wrong with the old system or that there is not a single good argument in favor of 7 rounds. Side bias is pushed to a round with more weight in the 8 round system. When there are 7 rounds, your “extra” aff round is just another prelim round, and will only make or break ~5 debaters (anyone who goes into round 7 4-2 and has to affirm), but in the 8 round system, half of the people in the runoff round (last year this was 14 debaters?) have an “extra” aff round that is all or nothing.But anyway, I saw that there are 84 people going to TOC this year..does anyone know how many there were last year? Bc that number seems kind of high to me…we’d hate to be looking at a partial triples if we had 8 rounds, since as it is, last year it was almost full doubles with what I think was fewer people. But I might be wrong about that so someone correct me.

      • Rebar Niemi

        i just cannot understand for the life of me why you kids want to debate less rather than more. what a bunch of wimps. this side bias argument has been stated before, and i’ll grant that it is an argument that exists. but it does not answer my position on 8 rounds and to me it is sort of preposterous that the solution to side bias is to compensate for it in # of rounds. i don’t advocate 8 because 7 is unfair to people who have to affirm, i advocate 8 because more debate is better and i believe the MOST IMPORTANT TOURNAMENT OF THE YEAR should be a special death march. 

        also it seems like the 7 round system doesn’t end this awful weighted side bias – it just concentrates who is a victim of it. if you ask me they should have kept 8 rounds and switched the way the runoff works – you don’t have to break all 5-3’s76 last year. that number is a little high, but hey we’re not having 8 rounds, so presumably we’re moving back to the small runoff/break to octas approach – which will probably result in 18-20 in the runoff + octas.

        honestly – i just don’t understand all these ‘rithmatics designed to convince me that less debate is better than more debate. 

        • Rebar Niemi

          also 7/14 affs won last year so A. you’re wrong and B. they were wrong too

          • Rebar Niemi

            HEAVILY WEIGHTED ROUNDS.

        • There are many good reasons for why more debate is not better, especially at a tournament like TOC. A lot of things can happen in a
          long day because every round is stressful and difficult; there aren’t
          any easy rounds. I got sick at the end of Sunday last year and had an
          awful sore throat; I probably would have struggled to debate a run-off
          round if I had had the misfortune of being a lower seed.

          It’s also DEFINITELY true that people’s insecurities about their ability
          to clear in a 7 round system is one major consideration that makes them favor an 8 round system. I don’t know how you can possibly deny that claim. Trouble is, the run-off round is mostly meaningless; no one
          thinks that counts as clearing in any real sense. You don’t get a
          trophy, you get this insult of a certificate for being a “run-off round
          participant.”

          I liked the seven round system better when I debated, and I think Wade and Ross brought up many good points. No one has answered this argument
          about having to break your best aff in outrounds on Sunday night and
          then being screwed for Monday. This claim is hard to empirically verify,
          but it seems very plausible to me. And Sophie’s concern about a partial
          triples is very valid–I could see that being an issue for sure under
          the 8 round system.

          7/14 affs won last year, but it is very difficult to generalize from that one run-off round given that negs dominated in the 14 other outrounds from octas to finals. Two affs who were higher seeds lost in the run-off round, and those guys might have advanced without debating under the old system. And people who had debated well all year — like BSK and Zimmermann — got knocked off in the run-off because of tough draws they probably would not have had to face otherwise. If we’re trying to consider what system best reflects who deserves to clear, then I think the 7 round system usually got it right. I’m not saying that everyone who we think deserves to clear before the tournament has some kind of entitlement to walk into outrounds, but I do think it is a good indicator of who the best debaters are. We should use the system that ensures that the debaters who have demonstrated consistent success throughout the year have the fairest chance to clear. The more outrounds you have, especially in a one and done system, the more likely the top seeds will lose because of chance.

          • Jeff gets it right that more debate isn’t necessarily good. I feel like our goal should be to reduce randomness and be sure that the debaters who are “debating the best that weekend” don’t get tripped up by it. 

            8 rounds seems to add back in a level of randomness in a pool so small – especially with mpj. suddenly anyone who could get to 5-3 needs to get a mutually preferred judge. 

            having the break after 7 also introduces a randomness we can avoid – some people having to affirm 4 times while others get to negate 5 times.

            I guess where all things are equal, it makes sense to have everyone get the even number of sides. 

            I might be more radical than most on the issue, however. I, for example, think a truer powering after two rounds would be to have 3/4 powered off of 1/2 because in round 3 those who draw aff (in the current system) get to have an easier aff round (since the bracket is larger) and in the 4th round get to negate in the much-tougher 3-0 bracket. 

            i also think that the powering system should change from round-to-round with opp wins becoming of diminished importance as the tournament goes on since those first two rounds are pretty random.

            other things i support: preventing a person from drawing 2 “A” debaters in the presets, using side-equalization in elims, having judge placement be an open process, and so on. a lot of these things have the effect of both actually reducing randomness and also (in the case of open tabbing) showing when randomness happens – as to make people feel better about judge placements.

            yes, randomness exists no matter what. the question, at least in my mind, is for tournaments to try to mitigate the effects of that randomness on the final outcome.

          • Rebar Niemi

            i guess i accept the various arguments laid out by jeff and you, but i ultimately feel differently. i am willing to wait and see on this TOC, i’m still pumped for it regardless. i absolutely agree on protecting debaters in presets and open tab. side equalization in elims seems fair as well. 

      • Handy ol’ iDebate says that if there are 84 people in the tournament, and all 5-3’s clear, that’s a clean break to doubles. 

        • Sophie Ruff

          In my experience, iDebate is only semi-accurate – definitely the risk for a partial trips. That would really suck.

  • For what it’s worth, I put together a spreadsheet using last year’s results to try to illustrate the negative side bias – especially higher in the bracket and when that bracket narrows.

    Here is a link. http://victorybriefs.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/TOC-2011-Sheet1.pdf

    Here is what I wrote in favor of NOT doing 7 rounds:

    –begin email–

    “I put together a spreadsheet that goes round-by-round aff win percentage. I’d like to be able to do this going back a few years, but I don’t think we’d find anything much different. 

    Personally I think its clear that there is a negative side bias, and that it is more evident as brackets tighten. I’ve tried to illustrate that at the top of chart in bold.

    The reason I made an additional category of data of “powered” and then “4-8” is because round 3 has the most significant difference within brackets and “powering” is the most meaningless.

    Just in eyeballing data, it would have taken a lot longer to have entered data to show it, but in many instances early aff wins, even by those who finished in the 5-3/4-4 range were against individuals who finished with worse records.

    For what its worth in deciding number of rounds in terms of size of break.

    Last year, with 8 rounds we had 29 debaters win 5 or more rounds.

    If we would have stopped after 6 rounds- 25 debaters would have had 4 wins or better (actually requiring FEWER run-offs)

    If we would have stopped after 7 rounds: 17 debaters would have had 5 wins or better (still requiring a run-off).

    Also, if we would have stopped at 7: 9 debaters earned their 5th win in R7. 7 out of 9 were negative. (I highlighted those on the right side of spreadsheet)

    Given all this, I’d vote that we do 6 rounds, clear all 4-2s. If powering after Round 1 (we would now have the time) means we decrease the risk of going over 32 with 4-2 or better, I’d say we do that. Although, I’m not sure that this is a real risk.
    –end email–

    In followup email I wrote:

    –begin email–
    I haven’t tried to spin anything.

    Spin is helpful when trying to come up with ways to solve a problem, but where we are just trying to come up with a way to make the tournament fair, the ONLY thing we can do is decide on the number of rounds (and maybe how we power rounds).

    We can’t force judges to judge a certain way. We can’t change speech times (at least for this year).

    We can’t add speeches.

    I am a supporter of changing speech times in LD. I’m a supporter of trying to come up with more thoughtful judging so that a Negative that “goes for everything” will more than likely win because the aff simply can’t answer everything in the 2AR. 

    I think I have some really good ideas as to why there is a negative bias, but I don’t think, given how close we’re coming up on the TOC, that now’s the time. I would be happy to lead an effort to provide much more meaningful research into LD times, side-biases, judge behavior, etc. In fact, I would LOVE to do this. I find it all really interesting (in case people haven’t noticed).

    –end email–

    Finally, I argued that if it is true that a “round is a round” so they we are going to have to potentially win on the aff whether it is round 7 or a run-off. I argued that 1) lets get to the “bracket” where high debates low (not just within brackets) and 2) where we have a panel. 

    –begin email–

    I’m not sure why it is preferable to not be in panels for the 7th and 8th rounds. Someone could go 5-1 and because they are “safe” draw judges who are not as preferred since they aren’t at a “critical round.” 8 round requires a lot more “preferred” judges because there are many more rounds of significance. 2 more prelims means 84 more rounds of debate that need clean, preferred judges. 

    I think we are better off getting to panels and get true powering as opposed to single-judges. 

    The big partial was a problem because, frankly, the judging wasn’t so mutual. There was a lot of pressure to move faster because we were running so late (not schedule wise, but absolute time wise). 

    8 rounds in this small of a pool leaves a lot more to randomness – where a debater has really tough 1&2 draw and then has to go 6-0 to clear? 

    There is probably something to be said for making the TOC somewhat like the regular season in terms of expectations of records to clear. Admittedly, that is also what made last year so weird.

    Also, the partials round would be smaller after 6 if we power starting round 2 instead of 3. We would have the time.


    composed and sent via mobile device so please pardon my brevity

    –end of email–

    All of that said, if anyone would like to help with similar spreadsheets as the one I did for 2011 TOC, please get ahold of me.

    • Bietz–I know that at least in terms of me, this spreadsheet is wrong. I won 6 prelims, and 2 negative rounds, not 1. Probably a small change in percentage calculation for bias, but still, I think someone should ensure that the records are accurate on the spreadsheet before we draw statistical conclusions from it.

      • fixed. and re-uploaded. i don’t think we should draw any conclusions from 1 tournament. I’d much rather have more data. I have a very strong hunch that the data will confirm what I and many others believe. 

        in debate we try to teach using data and evidence to warrant our arguments. it is really, really often that we use very limited and typically anecdotal experience (rumor) to perpetuate “truths” in the community. 

        where we can use data to make our decisions, we probably should. 

  • Anonymous

    Most of you are talking about bias and 50/50 between flipping aff and neg. I always thought that a person that is a higher seed should get rewarded. My argument is that the higher seed should be able to pick what side they want to be on motivatating debaters to get a better seed. this is good because it takes out luck and puts in skill (thats what debate is right?!).

    • Anonymous

      The skill disparity between the middle two seeds that will be hitting each other is way too minute to justify a choice in sides. 

      • Anonymous

        Then it’s essentially random, which is what the alternative is anyway. I think the real question here is whether you want speaker points to have more influence on the outcome or less. Higher-seed choice would make speaker points matter a good deal more, and I’m ambivalent on whether that’s a good thing.

  • Anonymous

    While I have no stake in the matter I did have a few thoughts:
    1. The only two debaters who didn’t have to debate in the run-off last year ended up closing out the TOC. It’s not causation but there could be some correlation there.
    2. Under the 2011 model, what happens if there are more than 32 5-3s? With 30 last year it’s conceivable that 3 more could get 5 wins this year. Does the TOC break to partial triples then partial doubles? Assuming doubles is double-flighted for judging’s sake, that would make for a very late night, especially with the winners having to debate bright and early the next morning. It seems that committing to breaking all 5-3s could be unfeasible under certain conditions.

  • The argument that having 8 prelims “punishes” good debaters seems weird to me. If a debater goes 6-2 or 7-1 and loses in doubles to someone who is 5-3, that seems to indicate that the 5-3 debater is more deserving of being in octas. Why would we assume that prelim record is a better indicator of skill than head-to-head?

    • Anonymous

      I think part of the reason is that TOC elim panels were pretty diluted last year, with 14 single-flighted panels. 

      I think another reason is that there’s been discussion in the past about whether panels exacerbate the Neg side advantage (I’m undecided on this question), and that a loss in elims to a 5-3 could be more representative of the side bias than skill, whereas their respective prelim records could be a better metric of success.

      • Why should you be in elims at TOC if you can’t win affirming against someone with 2 fewer wins than you? The logic just doesn’t hold. The argument that a 7-1 debater shouldn’t have to affirm against a 5-3 debater in doubles would seem to be logically no different than the (ridiculous) argument that a 7-0 debater shouldn’t have to affirm against a 5-2 debater in octas. 

        • Anonymous

          Nobody is making the claim that the 7-1 debater can’t defeat the 5-3 debater; the claim is that the panels were pretty diluted last year, and that judges can make bad decisions, particularly when they are tired at the end of that day. 

          If the TOC double-flights the run-off this year, I think that would be a step in the right direction. But I know that as the 5th seed last year affirming against the third-lowest 5-3, I had a panel of two judges who had never judged me before and were not highly preferred (nothing against them–I just didn’t know them that well). I also know that I won on a 2-1, and had I lost that round because of diluted judging (as nearly happened), I would have been very upset.

          If your argument is so compelling, why not clear everyone to elimination rounds, or at least never have partials? The 7-0 could surely beat a 4-3, right? The reason we don’t do that is because the judging gets worse and because we believe that a very good record deserves to not have to reprove itself in those conditions. That seems reasonable to me.

  • Rebar Niemi

    it is pretty shocking to me how many votes the 7 round system has gotten in this poll. in my experience the biggest and most vehement complaints about TOC I’ve heard from other coaches almost always center around their (or their debater’s) round 7. I feel like the 8 round system was definitely better – i have not heard any complaints about a debater being screwed over in prelims last year. the runoff may be an issue, it seems like giving a bye to undefeateds and down one’s would solve most of this concern and even 6-2’s if necessary. 

    another thing to think about: last year every single debater with 6 wins or better save one won the runoff and advanced to the round of 16. having judged that one round, i know A. it was a 2-1, and very arguably could have gone either direction B. it was a close round that i personally felt was ultimately decided by one unmade piece of argument interaction (if skep doesn’t come 1st or links, jalon wins). C. the panel wasn’t 1-1-1 for either competitor, but I believe each had at least one 1. 

    some may say that that round should have had higher mutually preferred judges (some would say every round at the TOC with a panel should be 1-1-2 or 1-2-2 at worst), but i think that the fact that the 11 other debaters with 6 or more wins won should tell you that it is almost a literal non-issue for those seeds and is huge for those debaters with only 5 wins. 5/16 had 5 wins. 3/8 in quarterfinals had 5 wins. those debaters were good. they deserved to be in those rounds. the 1 and 2 seeds closed out. the runoff doesn’t punish anyone, and furthermore exactly seven of fourteen affirmatives advanced to octafinals. i think the phenomenological data just proves all the counter arguments wrong. 

    i suppose you could make the argument having debaters with 5 wins in octas at all “tarnishes the legitimacy of the bracket, what with their bad arguments and inferior judging committed through the break” but that would probably conflict with the whole “this punishes high seeds cuz they gotta db8 peeps what who could beat em” argument. 

    my personal stance is 8 rounds good, break is fine as is – but would be better dbl flighted or slightly lessened. quit w[h]in[n]ing, winners win. 

  • Not going to debate whether 7 rounds>8 rounds (I think there are merits to both), but I will say that if the TOC goes 7 rounds, it should make the 7th round flip-for-sides. In a world where it is inevitable that everyone debates an unequal number of rounds on each side, the tournament should do what it can to minimize the “unfairness” of that arrangement by trying to maximize side preferences during round 7. Randomly assigned sides can never do a better job of accomodating side preferences than can coin flips, because in the event that one debater would prefer to be aff and the other would prefer to be neg, those debaters will be able to do so in a world of coinflips but will not be able to do so in a world where they are both assigned to their less-preferred side. There’s literally no disadvantage to doing flips in round 7, and the tournament should be open to making this change. 

    • I agree with this in principle, although in a world where everyone flips neg it doesn’t really matter because the ‘flip’ just happens in the tab room rather than in person.

      • Jonathan Horowitz

        But some people might actually want to flip aff. I’ll grant you it’s probably under 1% but you never can be 100% sure and no one gets harmed. Either the flip happens by computer or it happens by humans, either way the odds are the same and some people may benefit. No harm no foul.

        • You could just say on the pairing if you are neg you have to option of going aff. All I was saying is that a physical flip is unnecessary.

    • I agree with Smitty. I flipped aff in doubles last year, and I would’ve flipped aff in octos as well. Rd 7 with coin flip makes a lot of sense.

  • Rebar Niemi

    i think there are reasonable points on both sides, but i will say this. there is a HUGE difference between the side inequality of a rd 7 aff bubble as a 4-2, and losing the flip in the runoff as a higher seed. while affirming is always a disadvantage, at the very least the chance of affirming is 50/50 where as each person has a different chance of being aff in the bubble depending on other records, speaks, pullups, team not hitting each other, etc. 

    i hate to say it, but i think 8 rounds plus the bubble is good in the long run for TOC.
    A. it gives underclassmen who attend more experience
    B. good matchups or a lucky draw are less likely to clear someone to octas
    C. good debaters win clutch debates. going through a runoff to even get a trophy 
    D. why are we so obsessed with rewarding people for past performance rather than in round performance? personally, i’ve always thought that outrounds are the beginning of a different tournament – you should forget about your record and debate every round like its your last. 
    E. you’re not punishing a top seed by forcing them to debate a low seed. if they deserve their seed, they’ll win right? didn’t top seeds still win most rounds last year? don’t they win most years? don’t people like march madness because it has cinderellas?

    personally, from an aesthetic perspective i just can’t see how 8 rounds hurts anyone except for debaters who don’t get enough sleep/don’t prepare adequately, and i think that it is more fun and rewarding this new way. the TOC shouldn’t be a rubber stamp of who’s had the best regular season, it should be a big dance like the nba playoffs or march madness. 

    • Ross Brown

      “while affirming is always a disadvantage, at the very least the chance of affirming is 50/50 where as each person has a different chance of being aff in the bubble depending on other records, speaks, pullups, team not hitting each other, etc.”
      someone correct me if i’m wrong but this seems just blatantly false. the only situation in which your chances of affirming/negating wouldn’t be 50/50 in round 7 is if you’ve hit the person you’re supposed to debate in round 7 before, and then you would be the side that you were not when you debated previously. but this applies to the runoff round too. what are these other scenarios in which the chances aren’t 50/50??

      • Rebar Niemi

        yeah, actually i think you’re right. that part of my comment is dumb. i still standby the rest of it. i guess i was just thinking that it seems like the random variances in how pairings get worked out would contribute to a slightly greater than or less than 50% chance you’d be aff. I guess a coin flip is more comforting to me.

  • Anonymous

    Looking at the bubble rounds, I count 11 debaters that were 4-2 after 6 rounds and 5-3 after 8. All 11 of them lost their last aff round and got their final win on the neg. That is a very significant neg side-bias, and the way a 7-round system would have resolved it is that the 5 of those debaters who got to negate round 7 would have cleared, and the 6 who negated round 8 wouldn’t have. That’s essentially a coin-flip to determine which 4-2s will clear. Even if there is neg bias in the run-off, I don’t think it’s of comparable importance since the difference between clearing and not clearing is, in my mind, a far more important than the difference between doubles and octos. Bear in mind, also, that many of the debaters who would get the bye in run-off in a 7-round system would likely have that extra high seed because they got to negate in the 7th prelim.

    • Anonymous

      I agree with everything Jacob has said, but also, isnt it preferable to get to outrounds and at least get to debate in front of a panel rather then just have one judge? It seems more “legit” to me.

      • Anonymous

        I agree that in general panels are probably better than single judges. But I think it’s really important that the TOC double-flight the runoff if there are going to be so many participants, because the judging otherwise gets diluted. 42 people judging the run-off seems like a lot to me; last year was practically a full doubles round, but it was still single-flighted. My judging was ultimately more or less fine, but it was also two people who had never judged me before in my career now judging me in a do-or-die round–smaller judge fields could avoid that by limiting the need to reach for mutuality.

  • Wade Houston

    Ross already covered some of this, but here’s my email to Andrea Reed from last April: 

    “I know that at this point I may not be able to convince anyone to change the number of prelims back to 7, but I feel that I have a number of valid reasons for this that are worth noting. Minimally, I just ask that my arguments be taken into consideration for planning future TOCs, even if I cannot persuade you that a change to 8 prelims is detrimental to the quality of this year’s TOC. 

    First, in principle I disagree with changing the rules of a tournament a week before it starts. All (most?) of the teams that will be in the tournament have registered and paid their entry fees by now.  Teams registered with the understanding the tournament would have a certain set of rules. No one from my school was ever consulted about this change in advance, and I venture to guess that this was a closed door decision by the TOC Committee. I’m not saying closed door decisions are inherently bad. They should, however, be made before people sign up for the tournament so that they know in advance what they are paying for. 

    Second, adding an 8th round and dramatically expanding the size of the runoff round does not solve side bias. It only pushes side bias back a round. If all 5-3’s clear, then only the top few seeds will get a bye through the runoff round. No one wins a trophy for getting to the runoff round because it is, well, a runoff round. Many excellent debaters who would have gotten a bye under the old system will now have to affirm in the runoff round. This means that debaters still have an odd number of aff rounds prior to elims, except this time with 5 aff rounds and 4 neg rounds, as opposed to 4 and 3 in the previous system. However, the switch to 8 prelims makes this problem worse, not better. Previously, roughly 5-6 people may have been disadvantaged by having to affirm in the runoff round or a bubble round. The new system opens up almost every debater with a winning record to this type of misfortune, since there are very few bye’s. 

    The expanded runoff round is particularly unfair to many top debaters who will no longer be rewarded for their success in prelims. If you’re the 6th seed at the TOC, that’s a pretty big accomplishment. You shouldn’t be punished by having to affirm against a blip spreader in the runoff round who probably would not have cleared in the first place under the old system. The prospect of a 6-win debater losing before octas was previously unfathomable, but now it is a very real possibility. 

    Third, this is not the Berkeley tournament. Exhaustion is a major factor at the TOC. Other tournaments that have 8 prelims do so because they have gigantic fields. With a field this small, if anything it makes more sense to just have 6 prelims if the goal is an equal number of aff and neg rounds. Unlike at other tournaments, debaters must face high caliber competition every round. Debaters do not perform as well when they are tired, and most people that are still in the tournament on Monday will have debated an extra two rounds (unless they were the top seed, in which case there was just one extra). Judges get tired also and start making worse decisions. TOC outrounds are a high stakes arena and the debates are often extremely close. There are enough complaints about bad decisions every year as is. It would be in everyone’s best interest to be fresh for these rounds.

    Finally, in LD, one of the main ways to combat side bias is to break a new aff case. The best debaters show up to TOC with an innovative aff strategy for outrounds, and they intend to save it for Monday so that negs won’t spend Sunday night writing huge prep outs. Being in the runoff round at TOC is the definition of having your back against the wall. It’s a do or die situation, and you have to be willing to use your entire arsenal of prep. If more debaters are forced to break their outrounds aff on Sunday night, then aff’s will be at a much larger disadvantage for outrounds than at any point in the past.”

  • Anonymous

    I agree a lot with what Ross says below about shifting the neg bias to run-off rounds. It seems kind of ridiculous to me that a 7-1 had to debate in the run-off last year and had to risk being knocked out, debaters with worse records would have just byed to octas. 

    I think a compromise between the parties here might be to enact a rule that 7-1s (maybe even 6-2s?) should not have to debate in the run-off. That way there are an even number of rounds in prelims, but those who win seven (or six) rounds are not penalized in ways they previously would not have been.

    The most common response I’ve heard to this idea is that then speaker points become an issue with which 5-3s clear and which don’t, and that debaters should have to ‘lose their way out’ of the TOC, rather than be eliminated by speaker points. But I don’t think this applies: debaters who lose their third round would still be losing their way out of the TOC but putting their fate in the hands of speaker points. Debaters who win six (or seven) rounds could have the lowest points possible and still advance to elimination rounds, so it’s still losing one’s way out through that third loss.

    • Why not do something like what was done at Valley (and possibly other tournaments, I didn’t attend that many) where they byed everyone that was either 6-0 or 5-1 and then the top 4-2s and had it figured out so that the runoff round resulted in having the needed number of people for the doubles round. This system seems to be sort of what Adler is talking about and seems to solve the issue of having 7-1s or 6-2s risk losing in the runoff.

  • Ross Brown

    i noticed several problems with switching to 8 prelims at the toc last year. 

    first, the idea that this solves for the neg bias doesn’t make much sense because it just shifts the previously “neg biased” round 7 to the runoff round. and, the consequences of the neg bias are worse in the runoff round after 8 prelims because some really high seeds can get knocked out simply because they lose the flip. only a couple debaters don’t have to debate the run off round after 8 prelims, so the potential for really good debaters to get knocked out is pretty high. although there are inevitably some people who don’t clear under the 7 round set up because of neg bias, it doesn’t seem like neg bias affects as many debaters under this set up as it could during the 8 prelim/runoff round set up.

    second, an 8th prelim at the toc is really stressful. each round at the toc is like an elimination round at a normal tournament, and adding an 8th round just sucks. the toc was always my least favorite tournament of the year as a debater (and a coach too, for that matter), and an 8th round just makes things even worse.

    also, having competed at 3 tocs with 7 prelims as a student, it always seemed like, for the most part, everyone who “deserved” to clear did. of course, there are always going to be some exceptions to this rule and the idea of who deserves to clear is very subjective, but everything usually seemed to work out. adding an 8th prelim tries to address a problem (neg bias) that doesn’t really need addressing, and it fails at its attempt to address the problem anyway.