Tom Durbin is the former coach at MacArthur High School in Decatur, Illinois. He was a graduate of the school, and taught English.
Durbin founded the school's team in 1985, and coached into the 21st century. The team reached its height in the 1990s when Durbin's MacArthur teams qualified for the IHSA state tournament eight times in the decade (1991-1996 and 1998-1999). Over that run, MacArthur finished third twice (1993 and 1998) and second twice (1996 and 1999), all in an era of dicey question quality and single-elimination.
Durbin had his team playing constantly, and with a lack of serious competition in the immediate area, Durbin was constantly taking his team on the road in an era when few teams traveled more than a few miles for a match. In 1992 and 1993, Durbin's teams ended the season with records of 123-10 and 119-7. In fact, it is largely believed that it was MacArthur's prodigious play (and winning) that a pair of local principals eventually proposed the season limitation rule whose descendant still governs IHSA members. Excluding 1997, Durbin's coaching record from 1991 to 1999 was an impressive 701-103.
Because Decatur is generally a poor community, Durbin never had the advantages of money that many suburban coaches had,and he spent a great deal of time scrounging for money to keep the programs going. In a district that often didn't have a great deal of support for intellectual pursuits, Durbin often spent his own money to provide for his team. His classroom was a combination walk-in trophy room and library of questions that spanned two decades of Illinois quizbowl.
As the 1990s passed, money became tighter in Decatur, and with season limitations, it became harder for the team to function. Durbin did have one last great run in the early 2000s, largely thanks to Donald Taylor, his last great player leading the team to its (to date) final state tournament appearance in 2004. MacArthur's slide from the elite was aided by the rise of Carbondale's rise to elite status over the next decade.
As late as 2005, Durbin would occasionally moderate tournaments when his team was unable to make it.
Durbin was a highly respected coach in the Illinois quizbowl community, and despised administrative bullying and absue of power. One of Durbin's most memorable moments was the "prison uniform" event. In the late 1990s, a proposal was put forth that required all Scholastic Bowl teams to wear matching tops to IHSA state tournament matches. This rule change was not formally approved until early the next year, and in typical IHSA style, was not communicated well to coaches. Rather than taking the high road and giving teams a one year break (or better yet, getting rid of the silly rule), the IHSA announced that they would enforce the rule, disqualifying teams that did not appear in matching tops. The last minute nature and poor communication had teams scrambling to find matching tops that teams could wear for Regionals. Instead of teams showing up neat tops, teams showed up (in some cases) in borrowed sports uniforms and in at least one case, white undershirts. At the next state tournament, Durbin's team showed up in matching orange prison jumpsuits with "IHSA Department of Corrections" stenciled on it. While most people applauded the perfectly legal move to shove the IHSA's ignorant hubris back in their face, the IHSA was, as usual, less than amused at having its foibles pointed out publicly. The next year, a list of guidelines for matching tops, including a specific prohibition against prison uniforms, was written in to the IHSA Scholastic Bowl terms and conditions.
In 2005, Durbin was a member of the first class of the IHSSBCA Hall of Fame.
He passed away November 3, 2017.