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Debate coach earns top recognition

November 28, 2000
MSU debate team coach William Repko recently won the nation —

Moments before the announcement, the head coach of MSU’s 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, Repko’s 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 university’s debate program have much deeper roots.

He’s 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 School’s debate team, which claimed three state titles.

While he was on MSU’s 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 wasn’t too surprised with Repko’s achievement.

“I’m really happy for him and he’s getting the recognition that I think he deserves,” Trice said. “He provides excellent leadership for the team and he’s 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 award’s last 10 winners.

“I think they’re 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 university’s 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 year’s 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 doesn’t take all the credit for the team’s successes. He spends countless hours with team members and other coaches, practicing and conducting research for their tournaments.

Although he didn’t expect to win such a high honor so soon, Repko said he plans to continue pushing for new goals to increase MSU’s success.

“I think this award might convince high school students that MSU has a team that’s competitively as successful as some of the teams traditionally considered powerhouses,” he said.


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