Inside the Big-Money World of College Chess

One coach recently asked for $1M for program

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 3, 2014 3:15 PM CDT

(Newser) – Football and basketball aren't the only college competitions playing with serious cash. Chess may not have the national spotlight athletics does, but these days, the money behind it is nothing to sniff at. In 2011, a four-time women's world chess champion asked Texas Tech for $1 million in funding for her chess program, Webster University's student newspaper reported last month. Susan Polgar didn't get the deal—but Webster, the St. Louis school where she now works (and to which she took her entire team), says it spends $635,000 per year on chess, not including scholarships for players.

And this is at a school that doesn't give athletic scholarships, the Washington Post notes. The University of Texas-Dallas, another big player, last year spent some $691,000, including scholarships, it says. These figures don't faze the professor behind the chess program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, a frequent winner of chess's own Final Four. "It is the level of funding you need these days to have a really top-notch chess program," he says. Indeed, since Polgar came on, Webster recently won its second title in two years, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. But a college affordability expert wonders: "Are we just starting another version of what’s happened in the football or basketball arena? I think we are, even though the stakes are smaller." (In news relating to a much less serious game, researchers have come up with a winning strategy for ... rock-paper-scissors.)

There's big money involved in college chess.   (Shutterstock)
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