Webster UniversityResearch by Webster University’s student newspaper has revealed that Susan Polgar, now Chess coach at Webster, at one time asked Texas Tech University to fund that institution’s Chess program with a $1 million annual budget. According to documents obtained by The Journal through Texas’ open records law, Polgar’s request included:

  • A salary of $250,000 for herself as Chess coach and director of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE)
  • A salary of $150,000 for her husband as marketing director of SPICE
  • A $25,000 bonus for each of the team’s first place tournament wins (maximum of four)
  • Six full Chess scholarships, covering tuition, fees, room, board, and Chess-related expenses
  • Six to eight partial Chess scholarships, covering tuition and fees
  • 15-20 scholarships as competition awards
  • A commitment to fund SPICE for 5-7 years
  • Office, practice, and library space
  • $30,000-$40,000 for travel expenses
  • The hiring of an office manager and a director of outreach

The basis of that request was apparently an offer made to Polgar by another university. Texas Tech declined and Polgar eventually moved, along with her whole team of Chess players, to Webster University, which nevertheless according to Polgar was not the source of the original competing offer.

Webster University told The Journal that the annual budget for its Chess program is currently $635,000, not including scholarships.

SPICE is a program run by Polgar to train and promote Chess among young girls around the world.

Mirroring discussions often had about college sports programs, an article in The Washington Post questions whether this level of funding is appropriate for college Chess programs.

According to Webster, in order to match the publicity received by the winning Chess program, the University would have to spend $2.8 million for advertising. In addition, Chess enhances the institution’s intellectual reputation.

Also, members of the Chess team, all grandmasters, have been active in community outreach, teaching Chess to students at local schools.

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Webster Chess BillboardAthletes at Webster University in Missouri aren’t happy with a billboard posted by the college along I-70 outside St. Louis. Picturing two members of the Chess team dressed for sport, the billboard reads, “Our top recruits are Chess players—Webster University”.

Webster has a very active Chess program, recruits players from around the world, and was the winner of the previous President’s Cup national college Chess championship (also known as the Chess final four). Yet athletes at the university are calling the billboard “degrading” and “a slap in the face.” They’re complaining that “Chess isn’t a sport” and that the billboard has “damaged the name of Webster University.”

Some have launched a Twitter campaign to get the university to remove the billboard.

According to Webster’s Director of Public Relations, Patrick Giblin, the sign is meant as a PR counter to an adjacent, long-standing series of University of Missouri billboards, which promote that institution’s athletic achievements.

[via The Journal]