Nobody went nuts about this over at ESPN, however, because the championship was in chess.
Texas Tech chess coach Susan Polgar took her entire all-star squad of seven chess grandmasters from Texas Tech to private Webster University in suburban St. Louis, home to the World Chess Hall of Fame and the U.S. national championships. Polgar is unapologetic for gutting the Texas Tech elite chess program that she built there beginning in 2007 . “The program grew rapidly, and Texas Tech wasn’t ready to grow with the speed of the program. St. Louis today is the center of chess in America. It just seemed like a perfect fit.”
I’m sure it is, but that leads to your Ethics Quiz: Is it ethical for a coach to take a school’s championship team with her when she accepts a position elsewhere?
My view is no—it is not ethical. It is extremely disloyal and unfair. If Polgar spent any time persuading the team members to move to Webster while she was still under contract to Texas Tech—and does anybody think she didn’t?—-that was clearly unethical. That was acting against the school’s interest while being paid by the school; it is indefensible.
It is also wrong for her to poach the team of her former employer after she moved to Webster. Texas Tech invested money in the chess program, and it was developed on the Texas Tech campus. She should build a new program at Webster, not steal her old one. This is Golden Rule territory. Were the Texas Tech players part of her deal with Webster University? If so, Webster induced her to behave unethically, which is itself wrong. Polgar’s conduct smacks of unapologetic ingratitude. “Thanks for giving me a chance, Texas Tech, and now that I’ve made the most of it, I’m kicking you in the teeth without any regrets.”
If the chess whizzes from Texas Tech, on their own initiative and without encouragement from Polgar, decided to follow their ex-leader to St. Louis, that would be their choice, and no ethical breaches would be involved. This does not appear to be what occurred, however. As for those whose acceptance of Polgar’s conduct is based on the fact that her team’s championship was in chess and not basketball, I have to ask:
Why should that make a difference?
[Without Jacob Hanson, I would have missed this story entirely.]