Moments before the announcement, the head coach of MSUs Debate Team laughed at the thought of winning a top award.
But his doubt quickly turned to astonishment.
On Nov. 19, William Repko was named Coach of the Year 2000, the highest honor for collegiate debate coaches nationwide.
Coaches and team members applauded as he received the award during the Dixie Classic at Wake Forest University.
At 28, Repkos award makes him the youngest coach to join the ranks of top coaches from schools such as Harvard University and Dartmouth College who have won the honor since its inception in 1967.
I was flattered that I would be placed among so many coaches that had taught me so much as a student, Repko said. I felt like I got it way before my time.
Repko has only been head coach since July, but his contributions to the universitys debate program have much deeper roots.
Hes been involved in debate for nearly 15 years as a debater, coach and judge.
Before beginning five years of assistant coaching at MSU, he spent six years as head coach for East Lansing High Schools debate team, which claimed three state titles.
While he was on MSUs Debate Team, he helped establish the Spartan High School Debate Institute and the Spartan Classic High School Tournament.
Both events, which he now directs, expose students to argument theory and significant issues at the high school level.
And thus, Jason Trice, director of the Debate Program, said he wasnt too surprised with Repkos achievement.
Im really happy for him and hes getting the recognition that I think he deserves, Trice said. He provides excellent leadership for the team and hes really good at networking with people in the community.
And Repko, too, said he feels his long-term involvement contributed to winning the honor, which is judged by the awards last 10 winners.
I think theyre looking at people who are trying to build something, he said. And part of my interest in coaching was to provide more institutional support, which was one of the barriers when I was in high school.
According to Trice, the success of the universitys debate team under Repko is also a factor in his selection for the honor.
Debaters coached by Repko have been recognized as top speakers at several tournaments and he has coached MSU teams to the final round of the National Championship Tournament three times, including last year. This years squads, lined with freshmen, are deemed top ten nationally.
To have such a young team on the heels of our tremendous success last year is a pretty good testament, not only to Will, but to the debate program at MSU, Trice said.
Greta Stahl, a James Madison freshman on the team, said Repko deserves the award for his commitment to the debate program.
I think his dedication is huge, she said. In a lot of ways, he often puts the team first and I think that often shows in our success.
But Repko doesnt take all the credit for the teams successes. He spends countless hours with team members and other coaches, practicing and conducting research for their tournaments.
Although he didnt expect to win such a high honor so soon, Repko said he plans to continue pushing for new goals to increase MSUs success.
I think this award might convince high school students that MSU has a team thats competitively as successful as some of the teams traditionally considered powerhouses, he said.