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University of Texas at Austin
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Speech & Debate
Contact Info

Speech & Debate Director:
Jana Riggins

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Department Phone:

Department Fax:

State Champions

New Coach Frequently Asked Questions

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I’ve never coached Speech or Debate before! Where can I get help?
First, study the rules for your event(s) from the Constitution and Contest Rules and especially in the appropriate speech contest handbook. Then visit the UIL speech web page for additional information and resources. Contact the State Director for rule clarifications and speech teachers in your area for coaching tips. Attend conferences hosted by UIL.
How can I network with other speech coaches?
The best way is to attend teacher conferences. Spend two days of your summer in Austin at the UIL Capital Conference. You’ll participate in sessions with other novice and veteran speech coaches and hear presentations from some of the best. Join the Texas Speech Communication Association ( and attend their annual convention held in October which features professional development for speech teachers & coaches – not to mention fun and friendships you’ll experience!
I hear about UIL, TFA, NSDA, and TSCA. I get confused!
Each is a speech organization. UIL, TFA and NSDA (formerly NFL) all host speech competitions for Texas high school students. Each has a website you can access to learn more about what makes them unique. When you go to a tournament, make sure you know which event rules are going to be followed, because UIL events and rules and LD topics differ from Texas Forensic Association and the National Speech & Debate Association. TSCA stands for the Texas Speech Communication Association and is the state professional organization for speech educators at the high school, university, as well as middle school level.
What is a tournament "Poop" Book?
It’s the booklet you receive at registration that gives you all the important information you and your squad needs to know about the tournament: i.e., time schedule, room assignments, sectioning of each event, rules & procedures.
How do I know if my students are eligible to compete?
All students must meet the no pass – no play law established by the State of Texas. The TEA-UIL Side by Side manual provides answers to many of your eligibility questions. This manual can be located on the home page of the UIL website. Review it first and then consult with your Academic Coordinator and/or local administrator. If you still have questions, call the League (512-471-5883) and ask to speak to an Eligibility Officer./dd>
We've been invited to a speech tournament that is scheduled on a Sunday. Can I take my squad?
School district personnel may only accompany students to two school-sanctioned academic or fine arts competitions that do not count toward League standing if they are held on Sunday. These competitions must have prior approval of the superintendent or designated administrator. In addition, a college or university must sponsor the competition.
What is sectioning?
Because speech contests are oral, contestants are divided into sections, if numbers warrant. A UIL section consists of no more than 8 contestants. If 9 or more students are entered, preliminary and final rounds are held. Depending on the number of sections, the top 2 or 3 ranked students advance from prelims to the final round.
Who makes up a judging panel?
Panels are often used in UIL speech contests. If so, there must be an odd number of judges. Commonly, 3 judges make up a panel. Judges should not confer prior to rendering a decision and turning in their ballots to the contest director.
How important are the time limits in UIL Individual Speaking Contests?
Time is critical. In prose and poetry, contestants are disqualified if exceeding the time limit of seven minutes, even if only by a second or two. Extemporaneous speaking contests (informative and persuasive) also have a seven minute limit, but since these speeches are not pre-prepared from a manuscript, a speaker is allowed to complete the sentence they are speaking when the seven minute time limit has been reached. This will not disqualify them, although they may run over the seven minute limit by a few seconds.
What is ballot verification?

It is a required contest procedure at UIL tournaments. After results are tabulated and before they are certified as “official” results and medals awarded, contest directors should announce a period of approximately 15 minutes when coaches and students have an opportunity to look at rankings and ballots.

In debate contests, the contest director announces the win-loss record it took to advance to the elimination rounds. You should check each of your debate ballots, totaling the wins, losses, as well as speaker points. Once elimination rounds begin, during verification check that your debaters are listed correctly as either affirmative or negative and the judges’ decision. Speaker points do not apply in elims.

In interpretation and extemporaneous speaking contests, the contest director will return your student(s) individual evaluation form and display the master ballot(s) that indicate how all contestants (not just your own) were ranked by each judge in the round, and/or the diagnostic sheet downloaded and printed from the UIL TalkTab software tabulation program when multiple judges were used. You should check to insure the master ballot ranking for your student(s) match what is recorded on the individual evaluation form. Study in advance the Constitution & Contest Rules procedure on ranking when multiple judges are used so you can tabulate for yourself, in the event the contest director did not implement the official UIL TalkTab program.

What are categories for UIL Prose and Poetry Contests?

Each contestant is required to prepare two performances. The League establishes categories each performance must meet. The categories change every 2-3 years.

Study the category descriptors published in the C&CR carefully. Visit the UIL website and review the UIL Prose and Poetry Handbook for expanded explanations of the categories. The handbook can be ordered from the UIL State office.

Why is documentation often required for the Prose and Poetry Categories?
Assuring that each student has met the guidelines required promotes a fair and equitable contest.
How do I know if the documentation my student found for UIL Prose and Poetry is adequate?

Check the Constitution and Contest Rules and the chapter in the UIL Prose & Poetry Handbook that discusses appropriate and inappropriate documentation, and the official website. If you still aren’t sure, contact the State Speech Director. Tip: Don’t wait until the week of your district meet to call the League office. Allow plenty of time for your student to polish another piece, in the event the ruling isn’t in your favor.

Note: UIL Cross-Examination State Meet is held the week prior to District I week so if you need a ruling from the State Director, request it by March 1.

What information should be included in a Prose or Poetry introduction?
The introduction should include the name of the author and the title of the selection being performed. The introduction is also important for setting the mood of the performance. Refer to the UIL Prose/Poetry Handbook for a variety of approaches performers may use.
What is the rule on entering both LD and CX Debate?
Students are limited to entering one debate event, one interp contest and one extemp contest. Students who compete in CX cannot also enter LD at the UIL district meet. They can, however, enter other speaking events and academic contests.
If a CX team is entered as a district alternate but does not compete, are those students eligible to enter LD Debate?
Yes. The restriction against cross-entering CX and LD takes effect when the students actually compete at district.
My team qualified for CX State. Now what do I do?
Your district spring meet director will certify the results to the State Office so there is no registration for you to complete. However, be sure to pick up a Coaches’ Packet before leaving the District Meet. There is important information in it, especially the deadline for submitting your state judging forms online. Direct your students and their parents to the Winner’s Packet posted for them online.
Why do I need a judge for CX State?
Constitution & Contest Rules require every school that qualifies a team to supply an experienced judge. The state tournament is incredibly large with over 700 rounds to be covered by judges. Having schools bring judges, in addition to the 75 or so judges that the League hires, attempts to provide students with a geographically balanced judging pool.
What if I don't feel qualified to judge state rounds?
When you start the year with your debaters, realize that at least 1 of your teams just might qualify for state. Therefore, it’s a good idea to watch rounds at invitational tournaments and volunteer to judge. Tournament officials will welcome a willing judge for CX! The more rounds you observe, the more confident you will feel judging. Besides, judging at tournaments makes you a better coach since you can discuss the rounds you heard with your students after the tournament. If, after judging throughout the year you still do not feel qualified, find a former debater or someone qualified to bring as your judge. NOTE: If your district waits until the last weekend of the CX window to hold their meet, you will need to contact someone much earlier, in the event that your team(s) qualified, so that you meet the deadline for submission.
What happens if I lose my coach's packet from CX District or Regionals?
Check the UIL website for information and for the required judging forms you must submit for your students to compete at State. The forms are posted there for online submission to the State Office.
What happens if I miss the CX State deadlines?
Not only do you risk your team not debating at State, but also your school is assessed a $100 late fee.
What is one of my CX debaters qualified for state gets sick and can't come?
You are allowed to substitute ONE member of the CX team, as long as one member from the original team that qualified remains. If both debaters are unable to attend State, you are required to contact the district director so that the alternate may have the opportunity to advance. Failure to notify the State Office that your team will not attend state meet can result in sanctions by the State Executive Committee.
When and how do I find out what the UIL LD Debate Topics will be?
UIL uses 2 topics each year - 1 for the fall semester and 1 for the spring semester. The fall topic is released in early August and the spring topic is released in early December. The quickest way to get it is to access the UIL speech web page where you will find it posted. (The CX Debate topic is also posted there.)
I qualified an LD debater for state. Do I have to provide a judge for the meet?
Yes. Instructions on completing your judging forms are included in your Coach’s Packet you pick up at Regionals.
Can we file debate briefs as resources in our extemp tubs?
No. Remember: anything that resembles an outline of a speech is not allowed in the extemporaneous speaking prep room.
Can we highlight our extemp articles before filing?
Highlight an article in only one color.
What if I have a question that is not answered here?

Feel free to contact the UIL State Director. E-mail is the easiest and quickest way to get a response. You may also call or write:

Jana Riggins
UIL Director - Speech & Debate
University of Texas, Austin
Box 8028
Austin, TX 78713-8028
512-232-7311 fax