The Franklin R. Shirley Classic is one of the premier tournaments in college debate. Considered the national championship of the first semester, the Shirley Classic has enjoyed strong participation since its creation in 1956 . The tournament was voted the “Tournament of the Decade” for the 1980s & 1990s by a national poll of coaches. The Shirley Classic has been the site of many tournament innovations including the six minute rebuttal, decision time limits for judges, and caselist information. The tournament has held four titles over the years before being named after longtime Director of Debate, Franklin R. Shirley, who also founded the Department of Communication and served as Mayor of Winston Salem.