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> Academic Decathlon and Individuals
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post Apr 13 2016, 03:52 AM
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Throughout my short time on this site, I've encountered a lot of debate about the place of individuals in Decathlon both on teams and in the program as a whole. And because I didn't find a comprehensive thread for this discussion, I decided I'd start one, as I'm really curious to hear all kinds of varying perspectives on the subject. So: What are your thoughts? smile.gif


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zzzptm
post Apr 13 2016, 01:24 PM
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Individuals can carry a team in a state with only a few teams all the way to nationals.

Then those individuals will be more than a little miffed at the guys that they carried.

Teams need to have at least 6 strong performers to reach top scores - but the best of the teams I've seen have all nine participants performing at a strong level.

Even the coach has to be holding the line on excellence. He/she may not read one word of the packets, but if he/she is there to make sure those things get read and tested on, then that team will do better in competition.


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Scholastic Under...
post Apr 13 2016, 01:38 PM
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QUOTE (zzzptm @ Apr 13 2016, 08:24 AM) *
Individuals can carry a team in a state with only a few teams all the way to nationals.

Then those individuals will be more than a little miffed at the guys that they carried.

Teams need to have at least 6 strong performers to reach top scores - but the best of the teams I've seen have all nine participants performing at a strong level.

Even the coach has to be holding the line on excellence. He/she may not read one word of the packets, but if he/she is there to make sure those things get read and tested on, then that team will do better in competition.

Does this usually happen? I feel as though a lot of the teams in weaker states are pretty well-balanced, albeit at "low" scores, though there are certainly those break-out Decathletes that exceed their state.


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zzzptm
post Apr 14 2016, 12:35 AM
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I've seen more than a few Nationals teams that had scores around 5000 (meh) for most team members and then there was that one guy that scored over 7500 and that meant they had about 2000 points' advantage on the rest of the teams in their state. Rather than step up to the star's level and get the team to over 45K, the rest of the team would cruise on to Nationals and score about what they did at state or less, depending on how much they saw Nationals as a reward as opposed to a competition.


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Allan21996
post Apr 14 2016, 03:13 AM
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I've always been a big fan of the idea of individual nationals. I played a lot of sports when I was younger and after every season the best individuals would make the "all star" team. Our season would then go on as a makeshift new team that competed for the rest of the year. I always thought that individual nationals could be like that. States could send their own all star teams of the top individuals whose teams didn't actually qualify for state. The All Star teams would compete against each other and the D1 teams. They wouldn't be allowed to win nationals, but allowed to compete for top overall spots.


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JSK
post Apr 14 2016, 05:58 AM
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QUOTE (zzzptm @ Apr 13 2016, 04:35 PM) *
I've seen more than a few Nationals teams that had scores around 5000 (meh) for most team members and then there was that one guy that scored over 7500 and that meant they had about 2000 points' advantage on the rest of the teams in their state. Rather than step up to the star's level and get the team to over 45K, the rest of the team would cruise on to Nationals and score about what they did at state or less, depending on how much they saw Nationals as a reward as opposed to a competition.

It's been almost a decade since I competed, but I was quite a bit in that position, and I sense that it isn't uncommon. I managed to motivate a couple friends to do reasonably well so we could go to nationals, and that combined with my score was enough to win state comfortably over perhaps 3 rather weak teams. The team score would always tank at nationals because nobody would study anything after state (my senior year I also got unlucky with subjective scores and went down too, and even with that I carried over a quarter of my team's score). I remember in 2005, a low scoring year overall, both our varsities got something like a 3,000 and a 3,500 at nationals, and I seem to remember once somebody didn't even bother to show up to the interview at nationals....

Maybe this is a bit off topic, but I think the general lack of competitiveness at state, and the fact that a single team dominated from 2005-2008 is a big reason Washington hasn't had a single team compete since.

I remember zzzptm giving away "porkless cheesecake" at nationals in 2007. Good times, but gosh, I feel old....


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"I realized I had won. I had won all the prizes Academic Decathlon truly offers. The scholarships and promises of travel are only enticements to trick short-sighted children into partaking of an experience far more beautiful, far more awesome, far more sublime than they could comprehend in their limited experience. The competition is not about a few people winning this scholarship or that medal. The competition is about everyone, yes, everyone, gaining a desire to learn for the rest of their lives. It is about enriching our lives with deep and profound experiences. It is about following the path less taken, and realizing it has made all the difference in our lives." ~ zzzptm
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zzzptm
post Apr 14 2016, 01:56 PM
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JiSK! Wassup, buddy?!?! biggrin.gif

Hawaii nationals were definitely hard to motivate people to study for, no doubt. And, yes, when that one school wins it all, every year, right on schedule, it can lead to deterioration of the program in other schools. That's why I always wanted to see AcDec also include individual recognition, but there wasn't any desire at the top to change much of anything.

Washington wasn't the only one to vanish from the lineup of states. I can remember seeing Montana and North Carolina drop out, Florida showed up one year with a private school, don't know if they're still in it. Lots of schools in Texas let the program fade... It's a tricky beast to manage.

And, yeah, porkless cheesecake... good times. And if YOU feel old, welcome to the club. smile.gif


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JSK
post Apr 14 2016, 07:21 PM
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QUOTE (zzzptm @ Apr 14 2016, 06:56 AM) *
JiSK! Wassup, buddy?!?! biggrin.gif

Let me know if you ever find yourself in Northern California!


--------------------
"I realized I had won. I had won all the prizes Academic Decathlon truly offers. The scholarships and promises of travel are only enticements to trick short-sighted children into partaking of an experience far more beautiful, far more awesome, far more sublime than they could comprehend in their limited experience. The competition is not about a few people winning this scholarship or that medal. The competition is about everyone, yes, everyone, gaining a desire to learn for the rest of their lives. It is about enriching our lives with deep and profound experiences. It is about following the path less taken, and realizing it has made all the difference in our lives." ~ zzzptm
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schwartzy18
post Apr 15 2016, 06:24 AM
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In my opinion, the whole idea of Aca Deca is to compete as a team. You win as a team and lose as a team. For USAD to open up the individual competition to as many people as it has only adds to the problems with the number of participants and lack of interest. If you want more buzz and enthusiasm, you invite more teams! It just seems like they're trying too hard to make a show, when all it does is add confusion to nationals. I believe that all the kids deserve another chance to compete and they are all awesome, but really USAD? You can do individuals but not a few more teams from AMERICA? Sorry if I'm ranting and you don't agree with me, but it is just frustrating what a lack of understanding the organization has for the dedication and effort put in by the teams.
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zzzptm
post Apr 15 2016, 01:43 PM
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The issue with more teams, though, is more demand for judges, proctors, convention space - getting all that scheduled isn't easy, particularly with subjectives.

Buuuuut... if USAD went to a truly global environment and mindset... we could see a major transformation.

We want to keep students talking with each other, learning, and having a great time with it. To do that, I recommend eliminating competition events.

WHAAAAA??? Hear me out.

Competitions go digital. Teachers can proctor students, students in an area can go to a testing site to be proctored, I don't care. Just get your PC, click through the questions (some of which could be simulations/more intricate than multiple-choice), and get your score about 5 minutes after you finish. Some crashes will happen, so re-takes will be part of the competition from time to time. Tests draw from a bank of questions, so everyone gets 50 questions, just not the same ones. Everyone signs off on not discussing the questions outside the testing area.

Subjectives, meet Skype. Your judges are on a webcam, remote from you. Drop in an app that shows time signals, and we're good to go for speech and interview. Things change for a video format as far as body language goes, but that's our world today. I'm Skyping all the dang time for my job. I'm also using gotomeeting and Webex a lot, just to be fair to other vendors. Judges don't need to travel far and wide in order to judge. Competitions could conceivably draw on a large group that would be willing to help out for anyone, anywhere.

So when do the kids and coaches get to meet? They meet at the Academic Decathlon trade show/convention. Register now for the 2016 convention! Fly on out, stay a few days in hotels, eat out, go to sessions, look over question vendors that are handing out goodies, everyone has a real good time to kick off the competition year. Maybe have a quiz bowl-style bracket of four teams to settle the champion of the previous year as part of the opening keynote sessions.

That's right. A quiz bowl. Champion teams have the highest scores in the world, but they meet for a head-to-head question shootout. Pound them buzzers and beat the other team to the punch, let's do this thing! Yeah! No more inevitable CA dominance. They'll be strong and worthy of deep respect, but their performance will no longer be a foregone conclusion. Do the same thing on a state level, and back-to-back championships become much less common - and that brings excitement.

But get the start of the year to coincide with the end of the previous year and get everyone together for the fun at the start of the year. There could be national and regional meet-ups. There can be international meet-ups, but those would be geared more for the nation the event takes place in.

Invite colleges to participate, and maybe even get pro teams sponsored...

That's a big vision, especially with pro teams, but doing a convention where EVERYONE is invited at the start of the curriculum year is waaaaaay more fun and inviting than a Cool Kids Club of a few teams at the end of the year. Even if your team doesn't go to the national convention, there's still that excitement at the start of the year that everyone can share in. Minimize the end-of-year fatigue/emptiness by reducing the time between when a team is eliminated and crowning a national champ. Teams knocked out at the end of January have a hard time staying interested and active between then and when the next topic is announced... and then between then and when the materials are released. Reduce that time and have a lot more fun.


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schwartzy18
post Apr 17 2016, 01:29 AM
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USAD is a National Organization! They make plenty of money from registration and materials, with seemingly low overhead. By inviting more "paying" teams to a hotel, they could easily get another arena/expansion. Inviting individuals also adds people and numbers. Instead of sending in international teams who honestly don't deserve to be competing, they should include teams that spend countless hours studying and preparing. There is no excuse...
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Stanley Tree
post Apr 17 2016, 04:27 AM
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QUOTE (schwartzy18 @ Apr 17 2016, 02:29 AM) *
USAD is a National Organization! They make plenty of money from registration and materials, with seemingly low overhead. By inviting more "paying" teams to a hotel, they could easily get another arena/expansion. Inviting individuals also adds people and numbers. Instead of sending in international teams who honestly don't deserve to be competing, they should include teams that spend countless hours studying and preparing. There is no excuse...



Schwartzy, you seem to be saying that Chinese teams don't deserve to be there because they aren't preparing- yet the top three Chinese teams did better than HALF of the U.S. teams. So, who's not preparing?

They really do not seem to have that much money based on their most recent financial statements- 2011 through 2013. They dropped about 500k over the two years based on their net assets from 2.4 million to 1.9 million. If that trend has continued over the last three years, that would be 750k (I think) less to 1.2 million; on top of that, 2011 shows a 400k decrease from 2010! Now, hopefully the injection from the teams from China has helped a bit (which didn't start in full until 2014 and took a huge uptick in 2015), but to say that USAD is doing well seems to be inaccurate.

BTW, a few interesting things to glean from their reports: first, they actually made more money in 2013 than 2012 or 2011 from the teams (1.17 million in 2011 to 1.24 million in 2013), but they lost 40k over that period from their "investments" (are they getting rid of those investments?), so while it's not quite a wash they went up about 40k overall on all revenue over the three-year period.

HOWEVER, their administrative expenses went up over 10% from 12 to 13- yet, there was a precipitous drop from 11 to 12 of over 100k (like 30% drop), so while it may been annoying that the admin expenses went up over the latest period, it went down significantly from 11 to 12 for a total drop of over 70k.

On top of that, their curriculum dev costs went down over 200k over the three year period- 988k in '11 to 761k in '13. That has a lot of consequences both financially and competitively- I don't know if there was any noticeable curriculum crappiness in '13, but I would go out and say that I feel this year's could have been done better, especially in science.

Travel expenses went from nothing in 2011 to 25k in 2013.

"Expansion" expenses went down 10k (36->26k)- something that I would think is sorely and desperately needed if I was on the USAD board (of course, selling spots to schools in China may be a much easier way to do things).

-----------

I think it is very easy for us to vilify USAD for not doing enough outreach, curriculum development, proper subjective coaching, etc. However, looking at their financial audits (most recently available that is- they really need to release more recent statements) shows a really complex story- their investments losing money (either due to getting out of them or their inability to produce) seems to be more of a problem than losing revenue from teams. It seems they've attempted to counter those issues by slowing curriculum investment and dropping admin expenses (although the drop from '11 to '12 may have been in reaction to dropping 400k in '11- I'd be very interested to see those expenses in the more recent years). If the Chinese teams produced a price of $100,000 that really helps out USAD and keeps them pretty much stable; in all honesty, if that is what it takes, that's fine. If individuals paying a fee to go to nationals helps, that's fine. I think they've gained stability. The real question I think we have here is how do they make curriculum, subjective instruction, and national outreach better.

1. Curriculum- they simply need to invest more money in it. They've greatly decreased over these three years (over 20%) and if that trend continued they could be spending somewhere around 500k now. The tests and some curriculum from this year may be bearing that out. It needs to be way better. The problem is they get no financial reward for doing this. Find better test writers at least.

2. Subjective instruction- creating some sort of standard seems to be the main thing here. Create a video of three speeches and three interviews and send it to every state director. Have them send it to regional/district, and have that as a group instruction thing where every judge watches it, talk about what was good and bad, and find a sort of score range you would give it. You may still have rogue judges (tired, bored, thinks everything is awesome, etc.) but it may create some uniformity. For essays, straight up give them the part of the curriculum you are referring to if it's not literature- usually it is something very specific. For the literature, I have no answer. There are some very low-cost, standard-of-living stuff they can do for sub across the country. I think defacto has a better grip on this since he is the state director in Massachusetts.

3. National outreach- I think that this is place USAD could best improve at. There is probably some sticker shock for many states/school districts for the introduction into decathlon, especially with the conservative push on budgets throughout the nation. I think a good way to fix this is two things. First, have an outreach person that goes into districts and principals and state board members and talks to them directly- think a very passionate former decathlete. I know demidec has done this for WSC to great success. Secondly, create an "infant" cost- instead of the current price (I want to say $750 or $850) make it start around $300 for year one, $500 for year two, up to the normal level year 3. Let the new programs dip their toes without it being a huge investment. They will get more revenue and could have a pipeline for way more. I think everyone on here wants to get 50 states participating, and I bet they do too.

Now, another big curb to new programs to me is that there is no outward-facing competitive part except for super quiz which varies from state to state and doesn't matter all that much usually. I think they need to make super-quiz a 10th event on its own, and possibly making it a portion of each test on top of that (so it's weight would be, say 25% instead of 10%). I think interview should be removed for it. They also then need to make SQ bigger and uniform- let's say 10 questions on all 7 subjects (math gets a minute per question). I would like all the kids taking it at the same time, but the logistics of that being public seems impossible, or at the least incredibly difficult. Make them outward facing- the results are shown for each team every question (it doesn't have to be technological feat of any kind) as they are for many places now, but also how scores are affected for each team instead of just the number of questions right. Make super quiz THE make or break event. It would be incredible drama and something you can sell to a principal- something you can rally a school around rather than just a bunch of kids taking a test in a dark room. Texas state super quiz could be held in a dang arena! California's looked amazing where it is in Sacramento (when I went) because it had an arena-like feel. Freaking nationals super quiz could be in the University of Wisconsin's basketball stadium!! HOW AWESOME WOULD THAT BE?! Would it cost more? Probably. Could it be offset by a huge investment in American (and Canadian) teams joining in? Maybe.

Tl;dr- decathlon is awesome, let's try to make it better.


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2017 Texas Large School State Champion
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Allan21996
post Apr 17 2016, 04:59 AM
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Our Regional Super Quiz was at the USC practice gym for years until this year when we had to switch to El Rancho HS. Super Quiz is epic.


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The Allan Aguirre
Former 4 year Decathlete.
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Just out here for the memes.

If you're truly passionate about Decathlon(or anything), money, resources, ability, should never hold you back. It should only drive your passion further, because than you're truly achieving something.
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schwartzy18
post Apr 17 2016, 05:53 AM
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I don't mean that no international schools deserve to be in the competition, but it is called "US"AD. What I'm implying is that they should allow teams that are getting over 50k to compete in nationals before they allow schools from outside the country. And I honestly don't believe that they try enough to get sponsors or raise any money. It would be super simple to go to a company like Coca Cola and get even a few thousand dollars for the best high school academic competition in the US. I'm pretty sure the people on the board of USAD make a pretty penny as well. I just don't truly understand how an organization such as this can be in such debt. They don't understand what they have.
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Allan21996
post Apr 17 2016, 06:08 AM
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QUOTE (schwartzy18 @ Apr 16 2016, 10:53 PM) *
I don't mean that no international schools deserve to be in the competition, but it is called "US"AD. What I'm implying is that they should allow teams that are getting over 50k to compete in nationals before they allow schools from outside the country. And I honestly don't believe that they try enough to get sponsors or raise any money. It would be super simple to go to a company like Coca Cola and get even a few thousand dollars for the best high school academic competition in the US. I'm pretty sure the people on the board of USAD make a pretty penny as well. I just don't truly understand how an organization such as this can be in such debt. They don't understand what they have.

This is definitely true. I've always been shocked by the lack of sponsorships that academic decathlon is able to get. I played travel baseball for a few years between 12-16 and each player usually has fees that range from 1000-4000 dollars a season. They were always able to get sponsors and affluent people to pay our whole way through the season. For 13-16 kids, I guess we got about 20k in sponsorship money for a RANDOM Travel team. How can a national program not be able to get sponsorship like that? It's 2016 and we live in the world of quick and easy fundraisers. I've dropped hundreds of dollars on GoFundMe's and Kickstarters, I wonder what would happen if we got some people with money who really care about academics to dish out some money for scholarships.


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The Allan Aguirre
Former 4 year Decathlete.
Former Coach of some decent teams.
Just out here for the memes.

If you're truly passionate about Decathlon(or anything), money, resources, ability, should never hold you back. It should only drive your passion further, because than you're truly achieving something.
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Stanley Tree
post Apr 17 2016, 05:02 PM
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QUOTE (schwartzy18 @ Apr 17 2016, 06:53 AM) *
I don't mean that no international schools deserve to be in the competition, but it is called "US"AD. What I'm implying is that they should allow teams that are getting over 50k to compete in nationals before they allow schools from outside the country. And I honestly don't believe that they try enough to get sponsors or raise any money. It would be super simple to go to a company like Coca Cola and get even a few thousand dollars for the best high school academic competition in the US. I'm pretty sure the people on the board of USAD make a pretty penny as well. I just don't truly understand how an organization such as this can be in such debt. They don't understand what they have.


When I read the history of USAD, they had a main corporate sponsor for quite a long time (can't remember the name), and they moved away from them so they wouldn't have to depend upon it; I wonder if they have the same fear now. Allan, you talk about how you got these big sponsorships for baseball, but there is an outward-facing thing there, you guys were playing baseball games in public. Sponsorship implies that you get some sort of revenue based on people seeing your logo and buying your things- how will that work in decathlon? Are 500 some odd kids and their family going to buy enough coca-cola to justify them giving USAD enough money (100k? 500k?) for a sponsorship? Granted, many of those companies supporting things like local baseball are doing it out of some sort of charity, but those are local kids. I definitely think there are some companies that would benefit from a sponsorship of USAD, but how much are they willing to spend, and which companies are those? The old "pay money for a chair at nationals" seems okay to me. I would really like some big-name company to go shell out half a mil a year to get us better curriculum and stuff. I would be surprised if USAD is just sitting back and letting red years keep coming and doing nothing about it. Maybe there are some companies that would be willing to shed millions of dollars for next to no return, but I don't know.

You could also make the argument that they did get a sponsorship- the teams from China.


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2017 Texas Large School State Champion
AP World History teacher
Former Varsity Head Coach, Girls Soccer


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2008 Varsity State champion

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zzzptm
post Apr 17 2016, 08:36 PM
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Sponsorship is easy: a bunch of logos on the t-shirt, backpack, and hoodie that everyone gets when they arrive at the competition.

Question is, those logos want to aim at a certain market of eyes. Who is interested in USAD eyes?

In the tech industry, the logos that go on a hoodie at Cisco Live are not the same that go on the RSA Convention hoodies. The first gears more for guys that do routing and switching, the second is more for security. The logos go there so that when we're trying to think of a vendor to use for our networks, we tend to think well of/recognize the logos that we're familiar with. Nobody wants to put a logo on the wrong hoodie, as it's just a waste of advertising money.

Kids at an academic competition aren't in any sort of position to provide input to budget choices. Chances are, the teacher-coaches aren't, either. Maybe they can choose one or two supplemental study lines, but that's it. They're not going to sign on for a couple hundred thousand dollars' worth of equipment/consulting hours/professional services. There's just not a lot of money in schools. So, forget vendors that are interested in big-ticket decision makers.

Colleges? Nope. Students may have some input on their choice of college, but they can't go without parental approval in most cases. On top of that, most kids stay fairly local for their college. If the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople decided to fund USAD for a year and logo everything in a hope to attract decathletes to its hallowed halls, maybe it would see a slight uptick in the number of out-of-state applicants. If several name-brand universities chipped in, their logos would drown out the small players.

If USAD had a curriculum that revolved every 4 years and was built around IT expertise, it would have sponsors. Big time. Three-letter government agencies alone would foot a lot of the bills. Big name tech firms would want their logos and their products in front of the kids so that they'd remember them later on when it came time to buy stuff. The nature of the competition would undergo a transformation, but it would get sponsors.

USAD started in days of newspapers, phone books, and encyclopaedias on the shelves. It can't expect to carry on as if the technology of the last 30-odd years has remained constant. Add to that the economic muddle since 2008, and those investments aren't going anywhere, either. Perpetual trust funds are in a bad way all around the world. USAD needs to change in order to retain its relevance and to attract sponsorships.


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The "m" is silent and "Zzzptm" is only one syllable...
"The world could perish if people only worked on things that were easy to handle." -- Vladimir Savchenko
"Plan B is Plan A with an element of panic." -- John Clarke
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Lo-Fi Version Time is now: 24th October 2017 - 02:21 AM