U-M Debate team secures its first national title


After finishing runner-up seven times, the University of Michigan debate team has finally clinched its first national championship.

U-M Debate, which began in 1903 and is one of the oldest debate programs in the United States, secured the championship trophy at the 2024 National Debate Tournament in Atlanta thanks to debaters Kelly Phil and Bennett Dombcik. They won on a 5-0 decision against the University of Kansas on April 8.

A photo of two U-M debate students
U-M debaters Kelly Phil and Bennett Dombcik hold the final bracket card showing their championship win over the University of Kansas in the 2024 National Debate Tournament. (Photo courtesy of U-M Debate)

“We are thrilled to follow in the footsteps of the football team’s recent national championship and bring the Larmon Trophy to Ann Arbor for the first time,” said coach Aaron Kall, the Lee H. Hess Director of Debate.

Phil is a senior from Taiwan majoring in political science. Dombcik is a senior philosophy major from North Carolina.

The 78th annual tournament, which took place at Emory University, featured 78 teams representing 47 universities and colleges. Two-person teams debate each other on a yearlong topic concerning the U.S. nuclear weapons policy.

U-M’s team finished the preliminary rounds with a 7-1 record. In the elimination rounds, Michigan defeated Michigan State University 4-1, Georgetown University 4-1, California State University at Long Beach 4-1, and Emory University 3-2 before beating Kansas in the championship round.

During the last four decades, the U-M debate program has come close to winning the national title by reaching the tournament finals in 1989, 1991, 2014, 2015, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Last year, the team — which included Phil – finished as runner-up to Wake Forest University.



  1. Jack Berens
    on April 10, 2024 at 11:51 am

    Go Blue! What a splendid cap in a superb run.

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