Texas Tech's champion coach leaves, takes team with her
Fresh off her second straight national championship at Texas Tech, legendary chess coach Susan Polgar is jumping to another school and taking all the top members of the team with her. No one has ever seen anything like it in intercollegiate competition, not even among powerhouse basketball and football teams that are worth many millions of dollars.
"There's no equivalent," said Mike Hoffpauir, a Virginia consultant who helped organize the recent President's Cup chess tournament, the game's version of the Final Four. "If the coach from Kentucky gets hired by UCLA this summer, the whole team's not going to go with him."
Polgar, a home-schooled prodigy from Budapest and the world's top female player by the time she was 15, is taking her champions to private Webster University in suburban St. Louis, a city that is already home to the World Chess Hall of Fame and the U.S. national championships. Webster lured the team with the promise of a greater financial investment.
"The program grew rapidly, and Texas Tech wasn't ready to grow with the speed of the program," said the coach, who founded the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence, known as SPICE, in 2007. "St. Louis today is the center of chess in America. It just seemed like a perfect fit."
There are no hard feelings in Lubbock, said Texas Tech spokesman Chris Cook. The school plans to continue its chess program despite the departure of Polgar and her all-star squad of seven chess grandmasters, the game's highest competitive ranking.
High school football
Mercer County coach leaves for Letcher
Paul Rains is leaving Mercer County after one season to take over the football program at Letcher County Central. Rains said he has known Letcher Central athletics director Arthur "Ozz" Jackson for 30 years, so when Jackson invited him down to see if he'd be interested in coaching the Cougars, he went to take a look. He liked what he saw and accepted the job. "Football is big down there," Rains said. "They have a great facility and great support. They want to build a top-notch program and I think we can. It's a diamond in the rough." Rains will succeed Mike Whitaker, who had a two-year record of 7-14 at Letcher Central.
Arkansas places Petrino on leave
Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino has been put on paid leave. Athletic director Jeff Long announced the decision late Thursday, capping a stunning day in which it was revealed that Petrino had a 25-year-old female employee with him during a weekend motorcycle ride that ended in a crash. A police report released Thursday showed that he had been riding with former Arkansas volleyball player and current Razorback Foundation fundraiser Jessica Dorrell. She was not injured in Sunday's accident. Petrino broke four ribs and cracked a neck vertebra, but didn't reveal he was riding with the woman during a news conference Tuesday. Long says he wasn't told until Thursday that Dorrell was on the ride with Petrino.
■ Auburn Coach Gene Chizik said sophomore linebacker Jawara White sustained a career-ending injury. He didn't elaborate on the nature of the injury or when it occurred.
■ A new hillside seating area is planned this fall in the open end zone at Vanderbilt Stadium. The new area will be located beneath a new Jumbotron video screen near the north end zone and will feature general admission tickets. Steve Walsh, director of sales and marketing, said the hillside will be a perfect spot for families.
■ Three more TCU football players have been charged with felony marijuana delivery after a six-month sting. The charges against defensive tackle D.J. Yendrey, linebacker Tanner Brock and offensive tackle Ty Horn bring the total number charged to 23.
Gardner hopes to make U.S. team
Former Olympic gold medalist Rulon Gardner is 40 years old, he has dropped 200 pounds and he wants to make the U.S. Olympic team headed to London this summer. If he wants to keep that dream alive, he needs to lose another 25 pounds in just 15 days. The deadline for Gardner's comeback as a Greco-Roman heavyweight is April 20. That's when he must weigh 264.5 pounds or less to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa. Gardner told The Associated Press in a phone interview on Thursday that he's "close to 290" pounds, which is slightly above his goal with two weeks to go. But Gardner says losing the weight has given him a chance to start his life over again.
Report: Saudis may not send women
Plans for Saudi Arabia to send women to the Olympics for the first time appear to be in jeopardy. Saudi Arabian newspaper Al-Watan reported Thursday that Saudi Olympic Committee President Prince Nawaf does "not approve" of sending female athletes to the London Games. But he left room for Saudi women to possibly compete on their own outside the official delegation, a plan that may not satisfy demands by the International Olympic Committee. A similar arrangement was made at the Youth Olympics in 2010 for Saudi equestrian competitor Dalma Rushdi Malhas. She won a bronze medal in show jumping.
Zenyatta halter sells for $3,401
A halter belonging to former Horse of the Year Zenyatta is headed for display in the New York home of a woman who paid $3,401 for it in an online auction. BiddingForGood.com says the woman, who wants to remain anonymous, is a big fan of the mare and plans to display the halter on a life-sized bronze horse in her bedroom. The auction site says the woman even traveled 30 hours roundtrip to touch Zenyatta when she arrived in Kentucky, where the mare lives at Lane's End Farm in Versailles with her 4-week-old colt by Preakness winner Bernardini. Proceeds benefit the Living Arts and Science Center in Lexington, a not-for-profit organization that offers classes and events. The halter was donated by Lane's End and Zenyatta owners Jerry and Ann Moss.
Williams sisters one win from rematch
Venus Williams kept up with sister Serena by winning a third-round match at the Family Circle Cup, moving one step closer to an all-Williams semifinal. Venus Williams defeated Anastasia Rodionova 7-5, 6-2 Thursday, continuing her strong comeback from an autoimmune disease that kept her sidelined for more than six months. Serena Williams also advanced to the quarterfinals, ousting Marina Erakovic 6-2, 6-2.
Japan beats Brazil to win Kirin Cup
Women's World Cup champion Japan beat Brazil 4-1 on Thursday to win the three-team Kirin Cup tournament. Host Japan edged the United States on goal differential to win the tournament.
The last word
Washington Wizards rookie Chris Singleton, hoping to improve his chances of winning last week's $640 million Mega Millions lottery jackpot, spent $10,000 on tickets, then told the world about it on Twitter.
"Either that or blow it in the club."