The National Debate Tournament began at the United States Military Academy in 1947. It was organized and conducted by the academy at West Point for its first twenty years. In 1967, the National Debate Tournament entered a new era as the American Forensic Association, the national professional organization of forensics educators, assumed responsibility for the tournament. The NDT was moved from West Point and has been hosted by a different school every year since.
Disagreements over rules and the direction of the debate activity led to a split in the policy debate community and the founding of the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA). Founded in 1971, CEDA is now the primary national association promoting policy topic intercollegiate academic debate. In the mid-90s, CEDA and the National Debate Tournament agreed to debate the same topic each year with the same time limits, effectively merging their membership. In cooperation with the National Debate Tournament (NDT) Committee and the American Debate Association (ADA), CEDA formulates the annual intercollegiate policy debate topic used in tournament competition throughout the nation. CEDA acts as a tournament sanctioning agent, providing through its Constitution and By-Laws a framework for normalizing tournament practices and procedures. One of CEDA's most important functions is to serve as a professional association for scholars and teachers in the field of applied argumentation and debate.
Who can debate in which divisions?
Students shall have used their eligibility to earn points in a given academic year when they participate in three or more debate tournaments during that year. All students may debate in the open division of any tournament. For the other divisions, here is how eligibility is determined.
A. A novice is defined as an individual with no more than 24 rounds of team policy debate at the high school or college level, or CEDA non-policy debate, or 50 rounds of debate (including Lincoln Douglas, public forum, parliamentary, and policy debate). If a debater competes in no more than 24 rounds of team policy debate during his/her first year as a novice at the college level, they retain novice eligibility during their second academic year in debate. However, if debaters have more than 24 rounds of team policy debate during their first year at the college level but have not advanced to elimination rounds at two tournaments during that first year of novice eligibility they are entitled to a second year of eligibility until advancing to elimination rounds in two tournaments or upon completion of the second academic year.
B. Any debater with under 100 rounds of policy debate is eligible for junior varsity. However, any debater with more than 100 rounds of policy debate who has not won an elimination rounds at three tournament in junior varsity, varsity or open at the college level will be allowed to stay in junior varsity until they do so. The elimination round provision only applies to those tournaments that clear to at least full quarters in the division and does not count for partial elimination rounds. An exception will be made for Junior Varsity National Tournaments. This exception only applies to the year in which the student was forced to progress. A waiver process for this section may be established by the Executive Council for extraordinary situations.
The rules and performance standards for each organization are available electronically.
CEDA Constitution & By-Laws
Governing Documents of the NDT
AFA Code of Conduct
2018-2019 NDT/CEDA Debate Topic