This Fresno State debate team is becoming nationally-known

Courtesy of Barking Bulldogs Debate Team. Barking Bulldog debaters Primavera Leal Martinez and Hunter Sansom.

The Fresno State Barking Bulldogs debate team has been on a roll.

The team competed in the Las Vegas Classic Debate Tournament at the University of Nevada Las Vegas from Oct. 20-23 and talked its way through elimination rounds, defeating top debate schools along the way. The prestigious tournament featured 77 competitive teams.

Tom Boroujeni, Fresno State’s director of debate, said debaters Primavera Leal Martinez and Hunter Sansom defeated the University of Iowa, Arizona State University, the U.S. Military Academy (West Point) and the University of Houston in the elimination rounds held recently. They lost to University of California, Berkeley in the “octo-final” round.

“We are very proud of our debaters for this incredible achievement,” Boroujeni added.

In September, the team scored second place at the Golden Gates Debate tournament when Leal Martinez and Sansom advanced to the final round after winning five of six preliminary rounds and defeating the University of Nevada in the semifinals.

Boroujeni said he has Quinten Levin to thank for his “invaluable help as the assistant coach.” Also helping to prop up the team were the College of Arts and Humanities, department of communication, and Associated Students, Inc.

The team is defying the odds, Boroujeni said, due to the budget and size of its coaching staff.

“Debate squads’ success is often proportionate to their budget and the size of their coaching staff. The bigger budget a debate squad has, the more tournaments they can attend,” he said. “The same goes with coaching.”

However Boroujeni said, one way for a small team like the Barking Bulldogs to receive national attention is to break into elimination rounds of a national tournament like this.

“Making it to the elimination rounds put Fresno State’s Barking Bulldogs in the crosshair of other teams and established us as a contender in the national arena,” Boroujeni said.

To win the rounds, Boroujeni said, the team has to predict the arguments the other teams may make and research how to answer those arguments.

“This makes debate an iterative activity where every argument is countered by better arguments so teams have to improve and evolve their arguments in order to stay competitive,” Boroujeni said. “We welcome the challenge because debate is about education rather than winning.”

The team is searching for students who would like to become members. There is no major requirement or experience restriction to become a team member, Boroujeni said. Being a member on the team gives students three elective units per semester.

“If the coaching staff selects them to travel with us to tournaments, we pay for all the expenses,” he said. “We are one of the few university-sanctioned teams that do not require prior experience or knowledge in order to join.”

Sansom, who Boroujeni said is one of the team’s top debaters, never debated before joining the team. But, Boroujeni said, students will learn everything they need to know in order to debate.

“The only thing you need is the will to learn and commitment to do the research,” he said.

The team will be participating in the Robert Barbera Collegiate Forensics Invitational Tournament at Cal State Northridge from Nov. 10 -12.

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