EXCLUSIVE: Village Roadshow Pictures has acquired the rights to adapt Turning of the Tide: How One Game Changed the South by New York Times bestselling-author, Don Yaeger into a feature film.
Yaeger, with assistance from USC fullback Sam Cunningham (who recently passed away last Tuesday at the age of 71) and defensive captain John Papadakis, tells the electrifying story of the game that broke down the last racial division in college football. The book was originally published in 2006 and details the first integrated football game in Alabama that was played on Crimson soil in September 1970, and the two teams that met represented two distinct faces of college football: legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant’s Tide was the all-white national powerhouse in the SEC; and the USC Trojans, coached by John McKay, featured an all-black starting backfield that reflected the social changes that were sweeping the nation.
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The timing of this project is pretty spot on as college football is in the midst of a change yet again. Players are now able to except money for such things as public appearances while various teams are now jumping from conference to another and the look of the sport now looks much different then when these two titans first squared off in 1970.
The story of this game has a number of plot-lines that will appeal to not just college football fans but all sports fans including the quote “We’ve gotta lose to Win’ from Coach Bryant after the game. It’s that quote that sources say really hit home with Village Roadshow CEO Steve Mosko while researching the history of the game and why he pursued the rights so aggressively.
Sources say the story behind this game first caught the eye of Mosko when Village roadshow was shooting its own college show College Bowl on NBC. The show, hosted by Peyton Manning, has students from two high-profile colleges squaring off in a trivia tournament. When it came time for students from USC and Alabama to go up against each other on the show, Mosko was reminded about this classic game and started researching it and came across Turning of the Tide. Sources say he was so blown away by the book, he cold-called Yaeger and said he wanted to option the book and a deal quickly followed.
“The book’s author Don Yaeger said it best: During a difficult time when the entire country was torn apart by issues of race, this game not only swept away the last remnants of racial divide in college football but marked a tipping point for civil rights progress in the south,” said Mosko. “We at Village Roadshow Pictures look forward to further memorializing a story that goes well beyond sport and touches on important cultural contemporary themes.”