The Southern Bell Forum: A GooGoo Cluster of History & Trivia

This January the Montgomery Bell Academy will host the 28th Southern Bell Forum at their campus in Nashville, Tennessee. Since its inception in 1983, the SBF has been considered one of the most prestigious invitational policy debate tournaments in the country. Featuring some of the most intense competition of the year, the Forum limits its field to 72 entries and invites each school to register only its top team.

For those debaters and coaches that will be attending this year’s tournament, rigorous preparation should be well underway. Alas, this post will not assist you in that regard. Instead, the following is an attempt to chronicle some of the rich history of the Southern Bell Forum so that current attendees can better appreciate the legacy of this unique event.

Warning: Extreme Debate Geekery Below The Fold.

Most Championships—by School

Only six schools have claimed the Southern Bell Forum Championship on more than one occasion.

  1. Glenbrook North – 4 (2004, 1998, 1986, 1983)
  2. Colleyville – 3 (2009, 2008, 2003)
  3. Greenhill – 3 (2006, 1997, 1996)
  4. St. Mark’s – 3 (2002, 1990, 1989)
  5. Centerville – 2 (2007, 2000)
  6. Stuyvesent – 2 (1994, 1987)

Ten other schools have won the championship once: Dallas Jesuit (1984), Edgemont (2001), Head Royce (1999), Hendrick Hudson (1988), Kinkaid (1991), Lexington (1995), Newman Smith (1995), Pace (1985), South Garland (1992), and Westminster (2005).

Most Championships—by State

Texas has earned 13 of the 27 Southern Bell Forum Championships; no other state has won more than four.

  1. Texas – 13
  2. Illinois – 4
  3. New York – 4
  4. Georgia – 2
  5. Ohio – 2

California and Massachusetts are the only other states to claim the title.

Most Final Round Appearances

In addition to four championships, Glenbrook North tops the list of final round appearances with eight; only two other schools have been in the final round four times.

  1. Glenbrook North – 8
  2. Colleyville – 4
  3. Westminster – 4

Glenbrook North can also lay claim to the longest streak of consecutive final round appearances: GBN was in four consecutive final rounds between 1998 and 2001.

Most Teams In The Elimination Rounds

Seventy schools have cleared at least twice to the elimination rounds of the Southern Bell Forum. Glenbrook North has been in the elimination rounds in all but two years: 1991 and 1996.

  1. Glenbrook North – 25
  2. Greenhill – 19
  3. Westminster – 17
  4. Kinkaid – 16
  5. Lexington – 16
  6. St. Mark’s – 15
  7. Caddo Magnet – 13
  8. Centerville – 13
  9. Glenbrook South – 12
  10. Woodward – 12
  11. Valley – 9
  12. Pace – 8
  13. Bronx Science – 7
  14. Collevyille – 7
  15. Edgemont – 7
  16. Georgetown Day – 7
  17. Stuyvesent – 7

Current Elimination Round Streaks

Only six schools can currently claim to have cleared teams to the elimination rounds of at least the last two Southern Bell Forums. Glenbrook North’s current streak of 13 consecutive appearances in the outrounds is the longest streak in tournament history.

  1. Glenbrook North – 13 (1997-)
  2. Westminster – 9 (2001-)
  3. Bishop Guertin – 4 (2006-)
  4. Bronx Science – 2 (2008-)
  5. Colleyville – 2 (2008-)
  6. Kinkaid – 2 (2008-)

All-Time Elimination Round Streaks

The current streaks by Glenbrook North and Westminster are the longest in the history of the Southern Bell Forum. In the 27-year history of the tournament, there have only been nine streaks of six or more years in which a school has qualified a team for the elimination rounds.

  1. Glenbrook North – 13 (1997-current)
  2. Westminster – 9 (2001-current)
  3. Lexington – 9 (1987-1995)
  4. Glenbrook North – 8 (1983-1990)
  5. St. Mark’s – 8 (1985-1992)
  6. Greenhill – 7 (1991-1997)
  7. Caddo Magnet – 6 (1996-2001)
  8. Kinkaid – 6 (1986-1991)
  9. Westminster – 6 (1986-1991)

Championship & Final Round Seedings

The top seed has won nine of the 27 Southern Bell Forums. No team seeded eleventh or higher has ever won the championship; the following is a list of the winning seeds.

  1. #1 – 9
  2. #2, #3, #4, #10 – 3
  3. #6, #9 – 2
  4. #5, #8 – 1
  5. #7, #11, #12, #13, #14, #15, #16 – 0

The top seed has also advanced to the final round on four other occasions only to lose to a lower seed. The following is a list of the seeds of the teams that finished as runners-up.

  1. #1, #10 – 4
  2. #2, #7 – 3
  3. #3, #4, #6, #16 – 2
  4. #5, #8, #11, #13, #15 – 1
  5. #9, #12, #14 – 0

The sixteenth seed has twice advanced to the final round; both times (2002 and 1998), they lost to the second seed. No team seeded 12th or 14th has ever advanced to the final round.

The lower seed is 18-9 in final rounds at the Southern Bell Forum. The largest “upset” in the final round occurred in 1986 when the ten seed defeated the top seed.

The top two seeds have only met in the final round three times (2006, 2000, 1992) with the top seed winning twice.

Bracket Busters

The top seed has lost to the 16th seed in the octafinals five times in the history of the Southern Bell Forum including a streak of three in a row from 2001 to 2003.

The higher seed has won 66 percent of the octafinal debates at the SBF. The following are the cumulative octafinal winning percentages for each seed.

  1. 01 defeats 16 – 81%
  2. 02 defeats 15 – 74%
  3. 03 defeats 14 – 85%
  4. 04 defeats 13 – 67%
  5. 05 defeats 12 – 59%
  6. 06 defeats 11 – 59%
  7. 07 defeats 10 – 56%
  8. 08 defeats 09 – 48%

Do you have a “trivia” question regarding the Southern Bell Forum? Want to know the last time your school reached the elimination rounds, for example? Post a comment and I will do my best to track down the answer.

This post was researched using the data available at the Southern Bell Forum site and results packets provided by Tim Alderete. All errors are my own; please send corrections via email or comments.

45 thoughts on “The Southern Bell Forum: A GooGoo Cluster of History & Trivia

  1. Jeffrey Miller

    I'd be interested in to seeing some of legends of the Southern Bell Forum. Like, anyone ever broke at MBA three times? Anyone ever reach semis twice? etc.

  2. Whit

    Yeah, so Scott can ignore them while he's there for the tournament, then go back weeks later and taunt me with photos.

    …oh and nice banner ad, sell outs.

  3. Jeffrey Miller

    @Stats Geek

    1985: Caddo over St. Marks
    1998: Woodward BZ (Brown/Zampol) over Glenbrook South FG (Fine/Goldstein)
    2001: New Trier OT (Eric Oddo & Chris Tansey) over St. Thomas Academy GP (Darrin Gamradt & Scott Phillips)
    2002: College Prep BD (Mike Burshteyn & Dan Donoho) over Isidore Newman SV (Scott Schneider & Dade Veron)
    2003: Glenbrook South OS (Daniel O'Brien & Ravi Shankar) over Glenbrook North FZ (Matthew Finegold & Jake Ziering)

  4. Jeffrey Miller

    @Trevor Aufderheide

    30 states have had a team break at the Southern Bell Forum. Minnesota has had 2 teams break, one in 2001 and one in 2008. Texas has had the most teams break in one year with six, that happened twice- once in 1991 and again in 2005.

    Here's a full list of how many every state has had:

    1. Texas – 89 teams (broke at least 1 team at every single SBF)
    2. Illinois – 64 teams (broke at every SBF except 1996)
    3. Georgia – 49 teams
    4. Iowa – 32 teams
    5. New York – 31 teams
    6. California – 24 teams
    7. Ohio – 18 teams
    T8. Louisiana – 17 teams
    T8. Michigan – 17 teams
    10. Massachusetts – 16 teams
    11. Florida – 11 teams
    12. Wisconsin – 9 teams
    13. District of Columbia – 7 teams
    14. Alabama – 6 teams
    15. Virginia – 5 teams
    T16. Kentucky – 4 teams
    T16. Tennessee – 4 teams
    T16. Utah – 4 teams
    T16. New Hampshire – 4 teams
    T16. Pennsylvania – 4 teams
    T21. Minnesota – 2 teams
    T21. Arizona – 2 teams
    T21. North Carolina – 2 teams
    T21. Nevada – 2 teams
    T21. Nebraska – 2 teams
    T26. New Mexico – 1 team
    T26. New Jersey – 1 team
    T26. Washington – 1 team
    T26. South Carolina – 1 team
    T26. Mississippi – 1 team

  5. Bill Batterman Post author


    Oak Park-River Forest: Octafinals – 1993, 1995, Quarterfinals – 1990, Semifinals – 1983. So no OPRF team has been in the elims at the SBF since 1995.

    Niles West, surprisingly, never cleared at MBA.

  6. Bill Batterman Post author

    @Trevor Aufderheide

    St. Thomas Academy (featuring The 3NR's Scott Phillips) cleared in 2001 as the top seed and lost to New Trier in the octafinals.

    Wayzata (Chrissy Boyd and Megan Swenson) cleared in 2008 as the eleventh seed and lost to Chattahoochee in the octafinals (on a 2-1 decision, with Brian Peterson and I agreeing and Aaron Kall dissenting… Wayzata was aff reading their disease surveillance case and Hooch went for the EU CP and Diplomatic Capital DA. And yes, I did that from memory.) 🙂

    PS: Scott, can you remember what happened in your debate 9 years ago? That would be quite impressive.

  7. Scott Phillips


    Much like the holocaust or living with Roy, I will never forget. I didn't flip a flow in the 2NR and lost on the utopian fiat of the constitutional convention CP o/w T.

  8. Bill Batterman Post author

    @Teddy Kontopoulos

    Semifinals, on three occasions.

    2008—did not clear
    2005—did not clear
    2004—did not clear
    2003—did not clear
    2002—did not clear

    New Trier has only cleared one other time in SBF history—they were the 16th seed and an octafinalist in 1989.

  9. Bill Batterman Post author


    Yes, but not since the early 1990s. Kinkaid has one of the most impressive records in SBF history:

    1988, 1989, 1990, 1993, 1996, 1997, 2006

    1983*, 1986, 1994, 2005, 2009


    1983*, 1987


    The 1991 team was the top seed; they defeated East Grand Rapids in the final round. From the late eighties to the early nineties, Kinkaid was probably the most dominant team at the SBF.

    * For the first couple years of the tournament, schools (or perhaps just certain schools) were allowed to enter two teams. Kinkaid cleared both of their teams in 1983—one a quarterfinalist and the other the runner-up.

  10. TimAlderete

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-1670">
    Scott Phillips :
    Where are the Nashville eatery recomendations??

    Three Suggestions:

    1. Prince's Hot Fried Chicken Shack is a super-dive-ish place with EXTREMELY hot chicken. If you haven't had Nashville "Hot Chicken" it is fried chicken with a burning powder instead of sauce. It is also open very late – like 4:00 AM. It is a bit of a drive from the hotel/school.

    2. Much Closer to the Hotel, as a matter of fact right across the street from the hotel, in a shed behind the McDonald's. Hog Heaven. Their pork bbq isn't as good as Jack's (below), but they have a Smoked Turkey sandwich with White BBQ sauce that is Very distinct and Good.

    3. Jack's BBQ. This is the restaurant that caters the coaches party, so if you don't want to have that twice, that is understandable. But the food at the restaurant is quite a bit better than the catered lunch. Plus, neon pigs climb the side of the building.

  11. ChuckBallingall

    RE: Niles West @ MBA

    The best year for Niles West was 1995, when they had two outstanding teams, George Kouros/Armans Revelins, and Kristin Langwell/Rachel Gressel. My memory is that because MBA would not relax their 1 team per school policy, the coach at Niles West, John Hines, decided not to attend.

    Kouros/Revelins were considered by many to be the best team in the nation that year, although others thought very highly of Lexington: Steve Lehotsky and Matt Nichols. (They met in the finals of the TOC that year; Niles West won). I mention this only because Lexington was top seed at MBA that year, and we (Damien) met them in octos. Unfortunately, we were NOT one of the five 16 seeds to take down a 1. In fact, with Niles West not in attendance, no one was even able to take a ballot off of Lexington that year, if I recall correctly.

    I certainly wish the other major invitationals kept records as comprehensive as those kept by MBA!

  12. Bill Batterman Post author


    Georgetown Day has cleared seven teams to the elimination rounds. The closest they have come to winning an SBF came in 1998 when Alex Berger and Matt Ornstein lost in the semifinals. GDS's other elim appearances include reaching the quarterfinals in 1997 and 2003 and reaching the octafinals in 1991, 1995, 2002, and 2006.

  13. MBA fan

    What happened in each of the debates where the #16 seed beat the #1 seed? They must've been exciting!

  14. Richard

    Bill, can we have a discussion about this opp/win system? What do you think is the reasoning behind its continued use? It has an extremely large potential to screw teams over…………

    Since we lost our first 2 rounds, we might as well hit one of the top few seeds, i.e. GBS and Damien, who went undefeated and 5-1, lose to them, go 4-2 with the worst of worst speaker points (let's say 26.5s every round to be reasonable) and STILL break because our opp wins would be off the charts.

    I feel like this just means those first 2 rounds make or break how your elimination rounds go (or whether you break in the first place)

  15. Cloontang

    I know Morgan asked something similar, but what were the names of the Notre Dame team that made it to quarters in 1998?

  16. Scott Phillips

    <blockquote cite="#commentbody-1756">
    Layne Kirshon :
    <div class="edit-comment" id="edit-comment1756" style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; -moz-background-clip: border; -moz-background-origin: padding; -moz-background-inline-policy: continuous;"><blockquote cite="#commentbody-1753">
    AMiles :
    times have clearly changed

    maybe if i were as good as you, miles.
    </div><div id="comment-undo-1756" class="aec-undo" style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; -moz-background-clip: border; -moz-background-origin: padding; -moz-background-inline-policy: continuous;"></div><div class="edit-comment-admin-links " id="edit-comment-admin-links1756" style="background: transparent none repeat scroll 0% 0%; -moz-background-clip: border; -moz-background-origin: padding; -moz-background-inline-policy: continuous; display: block;"><a title="Ajax Edit Comments" class="edit-comment cboxelement" href="; onclick="return jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.edit(this);" id="edit-1756" rel="nofollow">Edit<span class="aec-dropdownarrow" id="aec-dropdownarrow-1756"><a class="aec-dropdownlink" href="cid=1756" onclick="jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.dropdown(this); return false;" id="aec-dropdownlink-1756" rel="nofollow">More Options</span><span class="aec-dropdown" id="aec-dropdown-1756"><a title="Move Comments" class="move-comment" href="; onclick="return jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.move(this);" id="move-1756" rel="nofollow">Move<a class="delink-comment" href="; onclick="jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.delink(this); return false;" id="delink-1756" rel="nofollow">De-link<a class="moderate-comment" href="; onclick="jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.moderate(this); return false;" id="moderate-1756" rel="nofollow">Moderate<a class="spam-comment" href="; onclick="jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.spam(this); return false;" id="spam-1756" rel="nofollow">Spam<a title="Blacklist Comment" class="blacklist-comment" href="; onclick="jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.blacklist_comment(this); return false;" id="blacklist-1756" rel="nofollow">Blacklist<a class="delete-comment" href="; onclick="jQuery.ajaxeditcomments.delete_comment(this); return false;" id="delete-1756" rel="nofollow">Delete</span></div>

    Ironic in hindsight?

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