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Cumberlands’ debate team wins multiple national titles


Williamsburg, KY.,- University of the Cumberlands’ (UC) Debate Team competed in the National Christian College Forensics Association (NCCFA) National Championship competition at California Baptist University outside Los Angeles , California the second weekend of March. Professor and Debate Team coach, Mr. Jay Bourne, led his team to victory as they traveled back to Williamsburg with eight team awards and the overall Quality Award. The competing team included Katherine Detherage (Barbourville, KY), Caleb Stoffle (Seymour, TN) Jenette Mitchell (Monroe, NJ), Robert Jones (London, England), Matthew Kelley (Corbin, KY), Brian Johnson (Corbin, KY) and Coach Jay Bourne.

“It’s great, plus it was a lot of fun,” said Mitchell. “I have learned so much from Coach Bourne and it was great to see all of our hard work pay off.”

The Quality Award is given to the team with the most points per event, which is an outstanding overall award for a team to win. Cumberlands won the award, which means that all of the team members did exceedingly well. Jones was national champion in novice IPDA debate going undefeated. Jones was also a semifinalist with Mitchell in novice NPDA debate (2nd seed and undefeated until semis loss on a 2-1 decision to a team from Vanguard University) and 5th place speaker in NPDA debate. Detherage received a silver speaker award in IPDA (quarterfinalist). The open NPDA team of Stoffle and Kelley finished prelims with a 4-1 record and advanced to octofinals before losing to a Kansas Wesleyan team. The team of Johnson and Detherage placed next out in novice NPDA debate, and Johnson placed next out in IPDA debate. Everyone from UC had a winning record in their debates which contributed to the overall win.

“This competition is good confirmation that if students apply themselves, they can achieve anything,” said Bourne. “UC was up against some large colleges and universities and to walk away with the Quality Award, says a lot about our team. There were a total of 26 schools and nearly 350 students competing.”

This particular competition by the NCCFA has been held for nearly 17 years and even though UC has earned top placing before in individual divisions, this is the first time UC’s Debate Team has walked away with a Quality Award. Bourne, who has coached UC’s Debate Team for ten years now, is extremely pleased with this placing and recognition for his team.

“The students have fun and many of them get a thrill out of competing and winning,” explained Bourne. “Debate is an excellent confidence builder for students and looks great on a resume. The students are always learning and staying up to date with global events. It helps students be leaders and provides them with effective communication and speaking skills. When it comes to the material for the debates, we do not always start out as experts but through study and research, we learn a great deal about a variety of topics. Also, improved speaking, listening, and communication skills might be able to help students be better advocates of Christ.”

“It’s really nice to have this title on my resume and pay Coach Bourne back for all the time and hard work he puts into the debate team with some team and individual awards,” said Jones. “I love the title of national champion and the fact I went undefeated just really tops it all off. I’d like to encourage everyone on campus to give debate a try. It is really great fun and has so many benefits academically and confidence wise. Hopefully more people will get involved now that they see our recent success and maybe UC will have more national champions in the future.”

Although many of the team members might see Bourne as the debate team’s secret weapon, Mitchell realizes it was the team’s dedication, intelligence, and overall skills that pulled them through to the top. “Jay Bourne has taught us so much and he doesn’t stress winning; he just says that this is what it takes to win and if we don’t, he says this is how you can improve. He makes us feel relaxed and wanting to complete. Jay is extremely intelligent and knows how to work to individualize all of our rounds so that we actually know what we are talking about and not just stating facts that we don’t understand. We have a team of hard workers and we are constantly informing each other about news and ideas that we have.”

Reigning Southern Forensics Debate Champion Caleb Stoffle says that being a part of UC’s Debate Team has already helped him get the summer jobs he has desired. “I had a phone interview recently for a summer job at a fishing camp in Alaska and I am certain that my communication and speaking skills helped me land this job,” said Stoffle. “I had to rely solely on my language skills in this situation and I credit Debate for my self-confidence and speaking skills.” Stoffle and Kelley, who share the responsibility of team captain, conduct extra team practices through the week in hopes of having a higher success rate in competitions and in daily life.

Bourne was recently renamed President of the NCCFA for a second term. This is an honor to him and it is more than just a title; Bourne works exceptionally hard at planning, organizing and doing what he can to make the experience what it needs to be for the students. UC is proud to have Bourne represent the university and hold such an important role and office at the National Christian College Forensics Association.

“I am so very proud of our debate team,” said Bourne. “They work hard and they deserved this award and recognition for their success. This was a great overall experience and everyone came away with awards and contributed to the overall team win. Our season is not over though so the team is still practicing and preparing for another victory.”

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees more than 40 major fields of study; ten pre-professional programs; ten graduate degrees distributed over eight areas, including two doctorates and seven master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs. For more information visit