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Gary Sailes
Department of Kinesiology

Tracy James
University Communications

Expert source: Tiger Woods' fall from grace steep, will pass

Dec. 17, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Gary Sailes is a sport sociologist in Indiana University's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and its Department of Kinesiology. His research has tracked Tiger Woods' impact on American golf during the past decade.

Of Woods' current controversies, Sailes says, "If sport has taught us anything, it is that sports fans are very forgiving of their superstars."

Despite Tiger Woods' current problems, his approval rating still hovers around 65 percent, Sailes said. Nike and his other primary sponsors, including the PGA Tour, continue to support him. The Associated Press recently named him "Athlete of the Decade" based exclusively on his sports performace.

"One reporter claimed that Tiger's athletic dominance outweighed the negative image and press he currently suffers, which is why he cast his vote for him," Sailes said.

Sailes said the enormity of the current situation stems from several factors:

  • Woods' managers have skillfully scripted and crafted a corporate brand and cultural image that has led to unprecedented endorsement opportunities and has made Woods the first billionaire athlete.
  • His squeaky clean image, his unquestionable athletic talent, his success and his global popularity have made him the world's most popular and dominant athlete.
  • The fall from such a high pedestal is chiefly responsible for the shock, disbelief and disappointment currently felt by his fans and fans of golf.

"No doubt, his current problems give ammunition to his detractors and enemies," Sailes said. "However, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, John Daly, Charles Barkley and other sports icons were able to survive their public scandals and won back their fans over time. I personally experienced disbelief, shock and sadness over the current scandal involving Tiger. I have met Tiger Woods and have always been impressed with the way he carried himself and his dominating performance on the PGA Tour. What will be interesting to see in the coming months is if it will be possible for Tiger to regain the prominence he once enjoyed. If history repeats itself, this too will pass."

Sailes can be reached at 812-855-0538 and