Skip to main content
University of Texas at Austin
University Interscholastic League Logo
University Interscholastic League Logo

Debate is the League’s longest-running contest, dating back to 1910. A small group of debate coaches met in Abilene and enthusiastically began an interscholastic forensic program to motivate their students and provide them with a practical application for the skills they were developing. It was then that UIL was born. Ten teams representing ten divisions of the state competed in the first state tournament. Over one hundred years later, the UIL Cross-Examination Policy Debate State Meet is celebrated as the largest high school debate tournament in the nation.

At the first state meet, educators voted to add declamation as a state-qualifying contest. Since that time, the League has expanded speaking competition to include two debate contests, two public speaking contests and two oral performance contests and congress. Thousands of students from across the state of Texas compete each year in Cross-Examination Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Congress, Extemporaneous Informative Speaking, Extemporaneous Persuasive Speaking, Prose Interpretation and Poetry Interpretation.

Speech & Debate News & Updates

December 17, 2021
Congress State Meet Update

State Meet Assignments, Training Videos and Instruction Sheets are now posted on the Congress State Meet Tournament page

December 10, 2021

January – May 2022 UIL Lincoln Douglas Debate Spring Topic now posted.


Speech Events: Spring 2021 Updates

The global pandemic has brought significant challenges to UIL competition but the forensic community has met these with resilience and determination to continue providing opportunities to students. Our plan for the spring offers districts and regions flexibility in being able to conduct fair and equitable competition. Please read the Academic Plan in its entirety in order to prevent misinformation being spread by unofficial sources.  Our staff is available for questions should you need to contact us.

  • Speech has additional considerations that differ significantly from the test-taking and writing events. Districts and regions have the option of conducting speech contests in person or using a virtual format.
  • Speech event and test-taking/writing event format options do not have to be the same at District and Region. Speech may compete with a traditional in-person format while other events use a localized format, or vice versa, as determined by the District Executive or Region Planning Committees. 
  • Speech events using a virtual platform shall be held synchronously. No rounds may be recorded. Each district or region is responsible for determining the virtual platform that best accommodates their tournament needs and for covering associated costs. Districts and Regions have access to the SpeechWire tournament management system for a reduced fee that is customized for UIL tabulation and utilizes electronic ballots. District officials must enter results into the Spring Meet Online System.  
  • Speech rounds will not be open to the public at any meet, whether in person or virtual. 
  • Speech events will be conducted virtually at the State Meet via the SpeechWire tournament management system. Virtual platform to be announced at a later date.
  • Speech contest rules are to be followed as published in the current Constitution & Contest Rules and UIL handbooks if administering an in-person meet. Rule Waivers and Modifications are to be followed if administering a virtual meet.
  • Speech contest officials and coaches will find the Best Practices documents useful for districts or regions that choose to administer speaking contests virtually.

E-Learning Resources for Speech and Performing Arts Educators

In these uncertain times of the COVID-19 health crisis, UIL strives to serve as a resource for educators working hard to continue providing growth and encouragement to their students. In conjunction with the National Federation of State High School Associations and other organizations, the resource page below provides valuable information for e-learning experiences in speech and the performing arts.

Speech and Debate: Opportunity Should be Provided for All Students

by Mellessa Denny - Oct. 26, 2017 (UIL Coach, Amarillo HS)

Mellessa Denny

Debate is an essential opportunity that should be provided to all students. Studies and professional opinions touting the benefits of participation in speech and debate, also known as forensics, are easily found. Students develop skills in research, critical thinking, organization, persuasion and communication.

Speech and debate students see tangible benefits from participation while in school – confidence in speaking situations, spontaneity in interviews, improved writing in other courses, diverse perspectives. These skills also benefit the student after high school.

Read Full Article