Ex-Auburn Prof Jim Gundlach gets a mythical Sam Goldwyn award* for speaking truth to power—to Auburn football


Auburn’s football team is rated #1 in the nation as it prepares for the national championship game Monday against the Oregon Ducks. Academically its team is rated #85 out of 120. It was rated #4 until a sociology professor spoke truth to power.

According to an article in today’s New York Times, one day in 2006 professor Jim Gundlach saw on TV that an academic player of the week was a sociology major. Gundlach had never had him in class, and two other sociology professors said they hadn’t either.

Gundlach smelled a rat in the football world, and dug around to expose widespread academic fraud in the Auburn football program. The Times broke the story back then, and Auburn, under pressure from the media and from the NCAA cleaned up its act—some—to publish honest academic ratings.

Gundlach didn’t get hero status at Auburn for correcting the football program: he was hounded out of the university by hate mail and calls assailing him for hurting the university. Gundlach doesn’t see it that way. The Times quotes him this way: “The things that I did in the process of going out was one of the best things I’ve ever done for Auburn,” he said. “In the long run, it will eventually do more.”

Gundlach’s decision to speak up against the almighty Tiger football program was highly ethical. While it hurt him professionally he’s glad he did it. He deserves the mythical Sam Goldwyn award for speaking truth to power.


*Sam Goldwyn, legendary Hollywood impresario, once said “I don’t want any yes-men around me. I want everybody to tell me the truth even if it costs them their job. “



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2 Responses to “Ex-Auburn Prof Jim Gundlach gets a mythical Sam Goldwyn award* for speaking truth to power—to Auburn football”

  1. James Haynes Says:

    I read the Times article earlier today, then read your commentary regarding the Eric Ramsey scandal at Auburn. While being a dark stain on Auburn University, it brought to light the underlying fact of big time college football. Both the university and its coaches have paid the price deemed necessary by the NCAA.
    I find it telling about the state of the news media and other commentators using the presence of Auburn University in the BCS Championship game. This headline would not even be repeated in The New York Times, much less an article by your hand. In this age of fox news, where the sensational, rather than the pertinent make the “best” headlines. Why must a writer use past allegations to stimulate their readers? The “Ramsey” affair is over and done with. The current coach is only in his second year on “the Plains”. Give him a chance to continue his change in perception. I have a relation that is responsible for assisting the athletes with their computer time for class studies. I, along with rest of the Auburn Family have confidence in Coach Chizik and his effort to maintain integrity within the football program.
    so before you point fingers, please wait before passing judgment.
    Respectfully yours,
    James Haynes, Auburn University ’76

    • Ethics Bob Says:

      James, you’re right, of course, this is old news. You’re wrong to suggest that just one player was involved–there were a lot.

      I do think it’s fair of the NYT and of me to write about it now. Auburn’s spectacular success and the big game are legitimate reasons to think about the corrupting power of big time football.

      Auburn has gotten a pass over the Cam Newton issue. I hope they turn out to deserve it.


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