Inside the Big-Money World of College Chess
One coach recently asked for $1M for program
By Matt Cantor, Newser User
Posted May 3, 2014 3:15 PM CDT
There's big money involved in college chess.   (Shutterstock)

(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.)

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Showing 3 of 8 comments
May 3, 2014 5:25 PM CDT
Well at least collegiate chess athletes will not leave college dumb, muscle bound, illiterate jerks like in football. Funny how the SEC states also lead the nation in building prisons and incarceration.
Paul Truong
May 3, 2014 4:52 PM CDT
The Webster University Chess Program has absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Sinquefield or the St. Louis Chess Club. They are supporting Lindenwood University, another university in St. Louis which provides substantial scholarships to chess players. Lindenwood also has a very good college chess team. There are over 100 universities in the United States with chess programs, and over 3 dozen universities awarding various levels of chess scholarships. Here are responses to some of the biggest misconceptions about College Chess in the United States:
May 3, 2014 4:32 PM CDT
LOL, tell me another one. There are maybe five universities in the country which offer chess scholarships; to my knowledge they are all financed by wealthy donors. In Webster's case it's a man named Rex Sinquefield, a (probably) billionaire financier who thinks the world would be a better place if more youngsters devoted themselves to top-level chess.