MIAMI (AP) -- Move over, football and basketball stars. Now chess players are also being offered scholarships as colleges look to world-class chess play to try to enhance their public image.
Seven years ago, two state universities -- the Dallas campus of the University of Texas and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County -- were alone in actively recruiting chess players as a way to boost their academic reputations.
Now, as many as 15 colleges and universities have followed suit in offering chess scholarships, said Frank Niro, the executive director of the U.S. Chess Federation, which is headquartered in New Windsor, N.Y.
"Recruiting is good for schools because chess players are bright," Niro said. "It automatically brings good students to the schools."
Yuri Shulman, a graduate student in business administration at Texas-Dallas, and Alex Woitkevich, a modern languages student from Maryland-Baltimore County, are among those who were recruited. They will meet this weekend in the national collegiate chess championship.
The so-called Final Four of Chess, which also includes players from Stanford and Harvard, is scheduled for Miami's World Chess Hall of Fame and Sidney Samole Chess Museum.
Both Texas-Dallas and Maryland-Baltimore County began in the 1960s as mid-size research campuses and technology training grounds. In the past decade, organized chess took on a more critical role in campus life.
"Chess is a way of making a name for a strong university that doesn't have a 300- or 400-year history like Harvard," said Tim Redman, the director of Texas-Dallas' chess program since 1996.
Unlike athletic recruiters who often travel across the country to find players, Alexiy Root, the recruiter for Texas-Dallas, said he and Redman visit scholastic chess competitions across Texas and award scholarships to the winners.
This year, such scholarships were valued at $19,000 a year for in-state students and $43,000 for out-of-state students.
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