Alabama is the hottest brand in college football. The infatuation for the Crimson Tide encompasses not only the present but has spurred a romance for the past. SHOWTIME Sports has chosen to explore the ramifications of a game discussed for decades, the September 12, 1970 USC-Alabama contest held at Legion Field in Birmingham. Following the 1969 season, the NCAA allowed schools to add an 11th regular season game. Coach Paul W. Bryant reached out to a trusted lifelong confidante and friend, University of Southern California head coach John McKay, to complete the schedule. Reasons the Trojans were selected as the opponent are explored in the feature-length documentary "AGAINST THE TIDE" set to air on Friday, November 15 at 9:00 PM CT (check listings for additional broadcasts).
Bryant had signed African-American running back Wilbur Jackson in December of 1969. A prevailing supposition circulated since forever was that he concocted the 1970 gridiron encounter to accelerate an agenda. According to folklore he hoped Alabama's fan base would become amenable to recruiting multiple African-American players to The Capstone after a predictable convincing victory by the West coast power. Although SEC rival Tennessee trounced the Tide during the prior year with three African-American players on the roster, Southern California was the first fully integrated team to be hosted by Alabama. Those subscribing to the premise the legendary coach devised a full-proof scheme to enhance the perceived goal suggested a resounding win culminated with a wave of acceptance by the Tide faithful to change their attitudes.
Former Tide players Joe Namath, Scott Hunter, John Hannah and John Mitchell provide perspective on the controversial myths surrounding the matchup and evolution of the integration of Alabama football. The project attempts to clarify the cloud of confusion created by the meshing of fact and fiction over time. Conflicting versions about the genesis pairing two perennial college football powers is presented and debated for the audience to decipher the real truth.
Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President and General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports was in Tuscaloosa for the November 8th Friday evening premiere held at Cobb Theatre.
"The story in particular appealed to me because there were so many half-truths, urban legends and unanswered questions that persisted for forty years," he explained about the underlying intrigue of the game. "The game was a seminal moment. It's not an exaggeration to call it historic but really what made it worthy for a documentary was the story behind the story."
The motivations of the two principles responsible for arranging the game, Bryant and McKay, may never be known acknowledges Espinoza, a self-proclaimed huge college football fan – Stanford undergrad and UCLA Law School.
"I'm not sure the project gets made unless Alabama football has the prominence it's had in the last few seasons," he stated. "That really sealed the deal. If this was brought to me 10 or 12 years ago, maybe I'm not interested but everyone knows the Crimson Tide football program now so it seemed the right time to make this project."
Former Trojan basketball player, USC grad and college football enthusiast Tom Selleck accepted the cold call to be the narrator. The featured documentary will stir the emotions of generations from the past and educate those of the future.
'BAMA Magazine/BamaMag.com visited with 51-time Emmy Award Winner and Executive Producer Ross Greenburg (Brown University) and former Tide quarterback Scott Hunter (1968-70) on the red carpet at the private Tuscaloosa premiere showing of the documentary held at Cobb Theatre.