Doug Duke, Debate Giant, Remembered

Debate lost another giant today as Douglas Duke passed away because
of complications from a fraying heart valve. This is very hard for
me to write. It has already been a very hard year and this is a
particularly personal blow.

Most of you probably do not know Doug Duke. Coach Duke was a debate
coach for 30 years - mostly at the University of Central Oklahoma -
he had many teams in elims of the NDT/CEDA and one win CEDA
nationals. In terms of contemporary debate influence Coach Duke had
direct and profound influence on myself, Greg Achten, Jenny Heidt,
Jason Russell, Martin Glendenning, David Baker, Steve Donald, Cissy
Sullivan, Jackie Massey, Eric Marlow, and many others. In overall
influence Coach touched tens of thousands of lives as both a teacher
of debate and of communication.

It is very hard for me to explain all the things I have learned from

First (and most important) your debate team is an extension of your
family. To this day, my college debate team best friends are still
my best friends and we keep in touch regularly...We take trips
together...we care deeply about each other. This was the way Coach
Duke ran his teams. I cannot tell you how many times I ate dinner at
the Duke house. Coach and his wonderful wife Bobby were like a
second family to all of us. As a result, Coach always went out of
his way to keep up with his family of debaters and celebrated and
suffered through everything in our lives with us. My heart goes out
to Coach Dukes wife, Drew and Cheryl, Grant and Hope, Kelley and her
husband, and his large brood of grandchildren. I try to treat my
team like Coach did, like a family and like I am the person they can
come to away from home.

Second, care deeply about education. I remember very well arriving
at UCO after flunking out at UNT (and taking a year off). The first
thing coach Duke said was that I could only debate after I proved I
could get my grades back to an acceptable level. I have always
appreciated him making me take my education seriously and have tried
to carry that with me into coaching. Coach Duke also taught a large
percentage of the debate coaches in his classes at UCO. He was a
debate and communications teaching dynamo.

Third, give second chances. I would not be in debate now if it
werent for Coach giving me a second chance. Believe me when I say
that I am not the only one who took advantage of one of Coach Duke's
second chances. There are people all over the country today who have
an education and career thanks to Coach giving them a chance when
nobody else would. In many ways, I think Coach would want us to be
seen as one of his most important legacies and I know he considered
this one of the things he was proudest about in his life.

Fourth, never ignore the opportunity for providing greater life
experiences. Coach started debating at Stigler HS in Stigler
Oklahoma. I remember how important it was to him to make sure that
when we travelled we didnt just debate but also experienced the
places we were visiting. Coach realized that for most of our team,
this would be a first time to a town like Seattle or some city in
Florida. He would go out of his way to find a way we could
experience some of the local flavor be it by visiting some
historical landmark or eating dinner at a place that would give us a
flavor of the place or region. On our many 10-20 hour van trips we
visited the entire country during my time as a debater and coach at UCO.

Fifth, give back. For the last years of his life - a life given to
teaching thousands of students - Coach refused to retire to leisure
and donated time at the Hope Foundation in Edmond. Every time I
talked to him he would speak of how happy it made him to be giving
back to people with greater needs. It is astounding to me that a man
who had given so much still felt an obligation to fill his
retirement years helping others.

Sixth, hard work is its own reward. Coach expected a TON from
us...and I cannot say that we never had our differences...but, in
the end, his high expectations for all of us shaped us into the
successful people we have all become in later life. He wanted us to
win - but win or lose, he expected us to be prepared. I have tried
very hard to teach that we should have high expectations of our own
behaviors...I learned this from those long nights cutting and
pasting in the squad room with all my close friends. As hard as
those nights were, I wouldn't have traded them for the world.

Finally, appreciate what you have. I was extremely lucky to have a
coach who cared so much about me as a competitor, a person, and as a
coach in later life. We had a great relationship to the present day.
I will always regret that we did not talk during the last few weeks
but I know, when he passed, he knew how deeply I loved him and our
larger UCO debate family. It meant so much to me that he was proud
of my achievements as a coach and as a person. He always took the
time to tell me that he was proud of me and that he cared. He was
like a second (away from home) Dad to me (no offense to my actual
Father who also is an amazing man and mentor). I look back and
remember all the times that he drove both ways to every tournament
for 10-20 hours at a time. I remember his tireless competitiveness
and joy of life. I remember how in awe I was seeing him with his
grandchildren who were all the lights of his life.

Thanks so much Coach, you will always be one of the most important
people in my life. I will miss you terribly.


From Eric Marlow:

I first met Coach Duke as a gangly pimply-faced fifteen year old at
my first state tournament in high school. I went to Bristow High
School, where legendary coach, Joe C. Jackson coached Cyclone Covey
and Robert Loeffler to a NFL high school championship before
becoming a legend at UCO. I didn't even know that college debate
existed. The first time I saw him he was chewing out some IE'ers for
not showing up for rounds on time. I asked my high school coach,
Bill Bland, "who is that guy?", and by the time he finished
explaining who Coach was, I knew what I wanted to be when grew up.
In college, I came within a hairsbreadth of transferring to UCO (I
think Sandy is still mad that I didn't). The amount of respect we
had for Coach couldn't even be measured. Beating CSU teams became
the yardstick for how we measured ourselves against the rest of the
debate community. We debated against his teams constantly, the CSU
debaters were some of our closest friends in the community, we went
to school with Coach’s daughter Kelley at Southeastern Oklahoma
State, debated Coach’s son Drew on a regular basis, and we spent
weekends off in Oklahoma City hanging out with the CSU debaters. I
even lost my first college debate to CSU. Kim Perry (McHale) and
Jessica Grassman (Mallard) beat us like drums. Looking back, it
seems like my entire debate career has always had a relationship
with Broncho debate and Coach Duke. Coach always treated Ronnie
Wilson and later Jackie Massey and I as if we were his own debaters.
He even gave up his own bed for Jackie and I at CEDA nats my senior
year when we had driven all night to get to Columbia, SC, and
arrived too early to check in to the tournament hotel. He told me
the other day that he had always considered me one of his debate
kids and I can’t tell you how much that meant to me.

Over the years, I joked that I was just holding down jobs until
Coach Duke retired because it was the only job that I had ever
wanted. In the summer of 2000, I finally got my wish. Coach retired
for good and I was named the Director of Debate at UCO. I didn’t
really feel like the director for another two years. Coach told the
Dean that he didn’t want me to feel like he was watching me and that
it was my program, so we didn’t get together the first two years I
was here. It bothered me a lot, because I wanted to talk to him a
thousand times. At the end of my second year, we cleared a team at
the NDT for the first time since 1987. When we got back from
California, I received a card from Coach congratulating the team and
I for such an accomplishment, and he asked me to go to lunch with
him. That was the first moment that I truly felt like I was the
Coach at UCO. How much does it say about this man, that his stamp of
approval meant more than the university’s, the dean’s , or anyone in
the community. I wasn’t the coach at UCO until Coach thought I was.

For the last two years, Coach Duke and I have met for lunches
several times, and we talked about debate today, the team, and
people from our extended debate family past and present. He missed
you all very much. He made me realize just how difficult it is for a
coach to retire because of the significant friendships we have with
each other in the debate community that we cultivate for decades.
Retiring he discovered just how much those relationships meant and
how much he missed all of you. It taught me to cherish all of my
extended debate family and friends even more dearly and to enjoy the
time that I have with you all. We spoke of many of you, Jon, Sandy,
Josh, Jackie, Ronnie, JT, Tuna, Rodger, Wayne, Sean, Marty, Jason,
Scott, Jimmy, Jarman and Daman are just a few of the names that come
to mind from our conversations, and he always had the most caring
things to say about all of you. He respected and loved each and
every one of you very much.

Those of you who know me can probably understand that I never
thought that I would be the same kind of coach that Doug was. You
would have never expected that there would be similarities between
the way he ran the team and the way I do. People have even joked
with me over the years about how different my approach was. Then I
read Josh’s note last night, and I realized that there is virtually
no difference between the things Coach valued and the values I have
promoted at UCO. I have given second chances, taken risks on small
town Oklahoma debaters, promoted the idea of our debate family, and
tried to instill the same values that he did so successfully. It
wasn’t a conscious thing, but just the way I felt it should be here.
I didn’t realize that it felt right that way because I had learned
it watching him for 25 years. One of the greatest compliments I
received in my life came when we were having lunch last week and he
told me that what I had accomplished at UCO with the team more than
lived up to the legacy he had left. I know he was exaggerating, but
it still meant more than I could ever express. To be told that by
one of the most decorated and honored coaches in the history of our
activity, and a man I had admired respected personally almost all of
my life, meant more to me than any award could ever mean. The
proudest and happiest days of my adult life are the birthdates of my
children and the day I was named the Director of Debate at the
University of Central Oklahoma.

This is just to give you an idea of what I mean when I say that the
shoes I could never fill just got even bigger. Doug Duke was an
incredible mentor, role model, competitive adversary, father,
grandfather, colleague, and friend. Until the day I pass away, he
will always be among the select few who receive the honor of the
title Coach, and I will always think of myself as the guy watching
over his program. Those are some tough shoes to fill. I hope that
when my coaching career is finished that Coach looks down and is
proud of me. Thanks for everything Coach!

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