Alaska Notebook: UAA's flagship team? Debate team, no contest

Elite team

The drama surrounding UAA athletics of late has included some debate about what sport is the school's most important, it's flagship. There's no doubt among hockey lovers, hence their intense disappointment in the Seawolves long run of losing seasons in Division 1.

But others will stake a claim for our basketball, gymnastics, volleyball, skiing and running teams. All have provided their share of excitement over the years -- Seawolf women who won their share of Great Alaska Shootout basketball tournaments, their counterparts on the male side who have pulled off some improbable upsets at home and away. Dial back 25 years to the 1988 Utah Classic and our Division II men's stunning upset of No. 2-ranked, Division 1 Michigan, 70-66.

Hockey's claim is like that of football at universities in the Lower 48. We're the marquee event, the rainmaker for the rest of the athletic department, the school's signature sport, its liveliest and most lucrative connection to the wider community.

Well, here's a cheer for all of UAA's athletes, particularly those who continue to qualify as student athletes.

But in some circles, UAA's flagship program is one that needs no ice, no court, no groomed trail or balance beam. It's a team that depends on individual performers willing to stand alone in the spotlight on stages around the nation and around the world. Theirs is a fierce contest that demands self-control, stamina and the ability to think with crystal clarity in the heat and on their feet.

It's the Seawolf debate team. They play with the big boys and girls all the time, keeping company and competing with the likes of Oxford and Harvard and Stanford -- and frequently winning.

Can't say how they'd do at killing penalties or forechecking, but it's clear they can hold their own where the air gets thin and the slope is steep.

Most recently, two of their members, Wiley Cason and Amy Parrent, had the nerve and wit to argue for the repeal of the Second Amendment. In Anchorage. In debate against a duo from Harvard.

The Bear Tooth theater sold out for the April event, well in advance. Debate director Steve Johnson told the audience they had no idea how long he'd waited for a response like that, when "we'll resort to scalping tickets for double face value on Craigslist."

There's the challenge, Matt Thomas. Take the hockey team up to where the debate team lives.

-- Frank Gerjevic