Spicer Debate Forum

Learn More about Missouri State Debate!

Perhaps you are a current MSU student wanting to learn about joining the team? Or a current high school student looking for college debate and scholarship opportunities? Or a current MSU student wanting to volunteer as a high school judge? Or in a student organization needing service or educational event credit? Reach out to our "Get Info" page and we will be in touch with you!

Welcome to the Holt V. Spicer Debate Forum at Missouri State University!

Whether you are a prospective debater, high school student or coach seeking a debate institute, program alumni, a debater from another program request cites, or just curious about the debate program, you've reached the right place.

Debate is a high-impact legacy program at Missouri State University. The success of the program is best measured by the successful of its students after they graduation. MSU debate alumni Tom Strong & Tom Black are just two of the many highly successful program alumni. Over the past decade, MSU debaters have a GPA average of 3.5, a graduation rate over 97%, and 70% have attended graduate school (including law school). This shouldn't be surprising, because MSU debaters successfully square off against the most talented students from both private colleges (Harvard, Dartmouth, Cornell, Northwestern, Wake Forest, Emory, etc.) and major public research universities (Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Texas, Kansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Oklahoma, UC Berkeley, etc.). Our record of success against such top ranked academic institutions demonstrates the quality of education than a self-motivated student can achieve at Missouri State University. Our most recent external review was completed in 2013, and was overwhelmingly positive. It ranked the Spicer Forum as the top program among Missouri State's benchmark institutions.

The debate forum, now named after former coach and NDT Champion Holt V. Spicer, is over 100 years old (as old as Missouri State University). Debate is a program within the Communication Department, which is itself housed in Craig Hall (named after the first debate coach, Virginia Craig). The program is financed with both University and alumni contributions. We cover the travel costs for our student competitors, including ground and air transportation, lodging, tournament entry fees, and meal money for debaters. We are committed to creating the infrastructure that debaters need to succeed, as the program's recent success attests.

Our program competes in policy debate (NDT-CEDA) at both the national and regional levels. We added NFA-LD, another evidence-based form of policy debate, and reached the national finals in our 1st season. We are perennially in the top 25 in national sweepstakes awards, and have a strong record and a strong history. Our FAQ page will help you learn more about the program. If you are interested in joining us as a debater, please fill out a scholarship application. The online application can be completed in a matter of minutes. Also, please contact Director of Forensics Eric Morris to discuss the team, scholarship opportunities, etc.

The debate team is housed in the Missouri State University Department of Communication (inside the College of Arts and Letters). Many debaters are communication majors, but several also major in political science, philosophy, etc. We are eager to talk to prospective students about opportunities on the team, scholarships (both debate and academic), or the university in general. Please note that academic scholarships typically require application to Missouri State by January 15th for incoming freshmen.

Perhaps most significant, we are committed to debaters at all levels, not just our top team. Only a handful of schools have had the depth to qualify the maximum of three teams to the National Debate Tournament or to qualify the maximum of four teams to the Wake Forest tournament. Most other colleges with a similar competitive record charge over $35,000/year for tuition - Missouri State is comparatively inexpensive (and has strong scholarship support). Nonetheless, our debaters with strong academic profiles have been accepted at several of the highest ranked law schools and graduate schools in the country.

We look forward to meeting you!

Dr. Eric Morris
Asst Prof of Comm
Director of Forensics, Spicer Forum

I'd like to know more....

Ok - I'd like to know more - what should I do right now?

There are several possibilities:

  • Browse these pages for more information.
  • Download our Recruiting brochure (we also have a brochure for MSDI).
  • Contact Dr. Eric Morris by email, Facebook, etc.
  • Contact debaters in the program for their feedback (most are on Facebook as well)
  • Arrange for a campus visit. We recommend you contact Dr. Eric Morris to plan for your visits while the debate team will be in town. We'll be happy to provide you and your parents several hours of contact time with the coaches & debaters. Planning an official campus visit through admissions also allows for campus tours and scheduling of meetings with professors.
  • Apply to Missouri State (all students applying by January 15 are automatically eligible for many scholarships - some scholarships have earlier deadlines or application materials). You could do this today - the fee is $35.
  • Apply for a scholarship. Supporting materials, such as letters of recommendation, files you've completed, or video of your debating are encouraged. Debate begins considering applications in April, but earlier application to Missouri State is recommended for academic scholarship consideration.

New COM 321 Travel Opportunities!

In April 2014, Missouri State first attended NFA-LD Nationals, and placed 2nd in the Nation! Although the Spicer Forum continues to prioritize NDT competition, we are expanding NFA-LD opportunities by adding a couple of qualifying opportunities in each semester. We believe students without significant CX Policy Debate experience will find NFA-LD accessible, while NDT is better suited to students with several years of policy debate and summer camp experience.

Unless you've already taken it twice, you need to enroll in COM 321 to be eligible for travel. COM 321 students may also choose a track which emphasizes high school judging and in-class debates, if they want to get a better feel before committing to travel.

You can find out more about NFA-LD by consulting the NFA Bylaws - the section on NFA-LD is section #11.

Support the debate program!

Alumni and friends of debate are strongly encouraged to support the debate program! Our travel budget is 10% less than in the late 1990s, despite cumulative inflation over 40%. In the prior decade, alumni donations enabled us to have a deeper program, which increased travel opportunities for promising young debaters to develop, and the results included reaching the NDT semifinals, three first rounds, and 7 year streak in the NDT elimination rounds. If you would like to support the program, you can follow this link. If you would like to know more about debate activities to target your support more specifically, please contact Dr. Eric Morris.

Missouri State Debate alumni & MSDI alumni also team up to fund scholarships for the MSDI. All interested persons should contact Dr. Eric Morris to be added to our MSDI scholarship listserv. Being added to the listserv creates no obligation, but will allow you to receive scholarship request letters send by applicants. Generally, the listserv will forward under 20 emails per year - most in April to early June. If you are moved by letters to make a donation, you can follow this link and select the Tom Black Debate Fund. It is important to also email Dr. Eric Morris to confirmed the amount. Donations are tax deductible if NOT specified for a particular individual; the letters are shared to inspire general donations. You are, of course, welcome to donate without being added to the listserv. In 2014, nearly 10 alumni donated, enabling 5 students who could not afford the full tuition to receive scholarship offsetting 25%-50% of tuition. We hope to meet that mark this year as well!

Facebook & Twitter

Missouri State Debate has joined the 21st century. Check out our Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Even if you don't have an account, the pages are public so you everyone can see them. We try to keep the twitter account updated with results during tournaments. We want to use the Facebook page as a scrapbook, heading all the way back to 1906! If you have additional items to contribute, Joel would love to add them to the site. Feel free to shoot him an email.

Continuing the Legacy of Success

Missouri State has seven straight appearances in elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament (2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), including a semifinal appearance and the 1st place speaker in 2008. This was the longest streak of NDT elimination rounds in Missouri State history, and complements our streak of 19 straight NDT qualifying seasons (1996-2014).

Some highlights from recent years include raising the number of 4-time NDT qualifiers to 8 (Troy Payne, Matt Vega, Gabe Cook, Mike Kearney, Martin Osborn, Jordan Foley, Jace Gilmore, Wes Rumbaugh), qualifying three teams for the first time ever in 2012 (Jordan Foley/Wes Rumbaugh, Jace Gilmore/Katie Frederick, and Jeff Bess/Joel Reed), securing three 1st round bids to the NDT (Matt Bostick/Michael Mapes, Martin Osborn/Clay Webb, Jordan Foley/Mike Kearney), and having a debater reach the NDT elims 4 times (Jordan Foley).

Perhaps most notably, none of the debaters referenced above were in the elimination rounds of the high school Tournament of Champions. There is NO other program, nationwide, where debaters with comparable high school experiences have had so much NDT success. There are only a handful of public universities consistently in NDT elimination rounds; most of the schools at this level are private schools, such as Harvard, Wake Forest, Northwestern, Emory & Dartmouth.

Debate Reunions

The Spicer Forum has sponsored official debate reunions in 1997, 2006, 2012, and 2016 (as well as Spike's 90th Birthday in 2018). We were unable to host in 2020 due to COVID-19, but have every intention of returning to hosting after the pandemic.

Most reunions have exceeded 50 guests, and the 2012 reunion had 80 guests during the dinner, around 40 at the wine tasting, and nearly 30 at the Stanton reception.

If you have feedback about this reunion or future ones, please email Dr. Eric Morris.