Regents' Cup to provide its own, one-day version of March Madness

A gold metal trophy which looks like a desert plant.

The Regents' Cup trophy.

Arizona Board of Regents

Have they got a shot? (Yes.) So they could win it all? (They could, and they have in the past.) What about the competition? (It's strong.) What does the coach say? (He likes the team's chances.)

We're talking about the University of Arizona team competing in … the fifth annual Regents' Cup, of course. What did you think this was? Basketball?

The Wildcats have been building a Regents' Cup dynasty. They have won the last two of these daylong speech and debate competitions, against Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, and the next one will take place Saturday in downtown Phoenix.

ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law is hosting at 111 E. Taylor St., starting at 7:45 a.m. The finals are scheduled to begin at about 5 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the three universities.

This year's theme is "Democracy, Justice and the Rule of Law," and judges will include elected officials, business and community leaders, journalists and educators. Good news: Those looking for civil discourse and a respectful exchange of ideas will have come to the right place.

Nearly 140 students from the three universities applied, and 43 were selected. Scholarships will be awarded to individual first-, second- and third-place finishers ($15,000, $12,000 and $5,000). All other team members will receive $500 scholarships, and participants are eligible to receive internship or course credit for their work.

Last year, the Wildcats swept all three places in the storytelling category and tied for third in Oxford-style debate, which is characterized by its formality and structure.

Ted McLoof, principal lecturer in the Department of English, and Diana Leonard, senior lecturer in the Department of Communication, in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, have been working with the 15-member UArizona team, whose spectrum of majors includes biochemistry, public health and accounting. Each of the students wrote an essay about the importance of civil discourse and free speech, all of which can be read on the Regents' Cup website.

"This year's Regents' Cup team has not only worked tirelessly, but become a wonderfully supportive community," McLoof said. "We've tried to emphasize collaboration and helping each other. It's always our team's imperative to err on the side of productive discourse, learning, and the tournament as an opportunity for civic engagement. We prioritize those things over competition or point-scoring."

That said, McLoof acknowledged that "we hope to bring the Cup home." (Yes, there is an actual trophy, for those wondering.) He said that he and Leonard have collaborated with the coaches at ASU and NAU because this is all about forging model citizens.

"We know how much effort all of the students from our three schools are putting in," McLoof said. "It's inspiring to watch this generation put the 'civil' back in civil discourse."

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