Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

UA’s speech team looks to advance in competition this weekend


At a school where students place great importance on the heritage of traditions and excellence, one program often seems to get overlooked.

University of Alabama’s Forensics Council, also known as the speech team, has won 16 national championships. However, the team’s scrawling list of accomplishments often goes without much acknowledgment from the student body.

“I want the UA community to know we exist,” Director of Forensics Frank Thompson said.

“We have more national championships than the football team,” said Council President David Kumbroch, a senior majoring in telecommunications and film. “We are nationally renowned, not just for our level of competition, but for our class.”

However, it seems that many students don’t know that the University has a speech team, much less that it has won multiple national championships, finished 7th in last year’s national competition or that it will be host to a competition on campus Saturday and Sunday.

“When I say I’m a part of the forensics council, people ask me what its like to investigate crime scenes,” said Collin Metcalf, a freshman majoring in communication studies.

After meeting with Thompson during a campus visit, Metcalf decided to join the team because he had participated in his high school’s debate team. The team has since become an integral part of his life, Metcalf said.

Thompson has coached the speech team for 30 years, but when Thompson arrived at the University in 1980, he had no intention of staying. Thompson knew he wanted to teach, but saw the position at Alabama as temporary.

“It’s these kids that have kept me here, this team—I love these kids,” Thompson said.

The team shares lots of memories and bonding experiences, but members take their roles seriously. Members dedicate hours of diligent work to the team and competition preparation.

In August, before school starts, members attend a three-day workshop to begin practice and determine which events people are interested in.

The American Forensic Association, the sponsor of the national championship tournament, recognizes 11 individual events. These events range from poetry interpretation to after dinner speaking. Each member chooses a minimum of four events to compete in.

Once fall classes commence, students sign up for individual practice sessions with coaches. Students devote six to 20 hours a week to working on forensics.

Jessica Carlton, a senior majoring in public relations and political science, spends an average of four hours a day doing forensics.

“That [time] includes coaching, reworking the text and running or timing speeches,” Carlton said. “To be successful, it is important that we constantly update events so that they are ready for the next tournament.”

Each year, several new freshmen quit the team. The most difficult part of coaching the team is helping novices realize the amount of time and dedication required to be successful, Thompson said.

About 30 students participate in the speech team. Many receive scholarships covering the cost of in-state tuition. Each year, the team holds open tryouts, where students compete for spots on the team and potential scholarship money.

The team has won three of the four tournaments it has competed in this year, with students receiving more than 120 individual awards.

The team’s start to the season is an indication of the goals they’ve set for themselves. Coaches and team members alike look to the national tournament held in April all season long.

“In August, I’m already thinking about April,” Thompson said. “The goal this year is to have as many students qualify for nationals as possible.”

Jeremy Douberly, a senior majoring in communication studies, said he wants to accomplish more than qualifying for nationals.

“[The goal is to] win another national championship for the Capstone,” Douberly said.

Other members agree.

“We want to be the best speech team in the nation,” Metcalf said.

“I just want us to rock it out,” Carlton said, talking about the national tournament.

With such high expectations for the season, the team will present their work at the Crimson Classic tournament Saturday and Sunday. The team will compete against teams from Florida State, University of Florida, Mississippi State, University of Mississippi, Clemson, LSU, Miami of Ohio and several others.

“People who want to see the best of the best in public speaking need to come and enjoy this tournament,” Douberly said.

***Pull Out Box***

What: Crimson Classic Tournament

When: Oct. 9 and 10

Where: Reese Phifer, Bidgood and Morgan Hall

More Info: Open to the public, contact tournament director Frank Thompson at 205-348-8077.

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