UNLV Debate Team Heads To National Championship

UNLV is going to the national championship, but they won't be facing Duke. Or Michigan State.

In fact, this isn't basketball. UNLV will be fighting for a national title in an area that perhaps no one outside of UNLV even thought possible.


UNLV's debate team is ranked in the top 10 in the country and is one of 16 teams invited to the tournament.

Its coach is Communications professor Jake Thompson. Thompson came to UNLV in 2007 to create the debate team.

“This has been a long process of building up to national competitive success,” he said.

Originally, the program recruited members locally but now it is recruiting top debaters from around the country. 

One of those who transferred from another college is Matt Gomez. Gomez was attending Weber State in Utah but asked Thompson about transferring and getting a spot on the team.

"Debate is intellectually stimulating," he said. 

His partner in the two on two debates they've been competing in all season is Jeff Horn. Horn was born and raised in Las Vegas. He attended Green Valley High School.

Horn said during the tournament season they dedicate about 30 or 40 hours a week to debate practice and research.

At the beginning of the season, they're given a topic and they debate the same topic all season long. Each time they debate, they switch from arguing the pro and the con side of the resolution.

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The topic this year has been national healthcare. Even though they've debated the same topic several times, Horn said they refine their arguments each time and they get better and different research. 

Thompson believes debate is the most transformative discipline for students. He said debaters learn to research, advocate for their position and organize their thoughts to create a persuasive argument.


Jake Thompson, professor, UNLV Debate Team coach

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