The latest SEC Storied documentary “The Trials of Bobby Hoppe” is set to premiere on Thursday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. ET on SEC Network. The one-hour film chronicles the championship run of the 1957 Auburn football team and the dark secret one of its stars kept for more than 30 years.
In 1957, Auburn came out of nowhere to rise from being unranked to AP National Champions. The Tigers’ undefeated season, capped by a 40-0 drubbing of Alabama in the Iron Bowl, marked seven years in which head coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan took a program in ruin to the top of college football.
But there was unseen adversity bubbling under the surface of the Auburn football program. Unbeknownst to his teammates, star running back Bobby Hoppe was carrying a heavy burden. Two months prior to the ’57 season in his hometown of Chattanooga, Tenn., he was involved in a violent altercation that resulted in the death of a local bootlegger. The secret haunted Hoppe for three decades before coming to light in 1988, when he would face trial on a charge of murder.
Directed by Fritz Mitchell and produced by Andy Billman, “The Trials of Bobby Hoppe” examines the triumph of the ‘57 Tigers and the anguish of Hoppe, one of the team’s best players, in a saga that played out on fields across the SEC, and later, in a Chattanooga courtroom.
“It’s a story from another time and one with which I was unfamiliar,” said Mitchell. “On the surface, the Auburn team of ’57 was making an unlikely journey to a national championship. A layer beneath, their star halfback was being tested off the field in ways no one could imagine. I wanted to explore who Hoppe was and what really happened on Bell Street in Chattanooga that warm summer night.”
An Emmy and Peabody award-winning filmmaker, Mitchell started his television career as a researcher for CBS Sports in 1982, and has directed and produced documentaries for ESPN and PBS since 1998, including two films for the celebrated 30 for 30 series – “The Legend of Jimmy the Greek” and “Ghosts of Ole Miss.” More recently, he completed the acclaimed 8-part/12-hour documentary “Saturdays in the South: A History of SEC Football” for ESPN’s College Football 150 project and the SEC Storied series.
Billman is an Emmy, NAACP and Peabody award-winning producer with a passion for sports and storytelling. He started at ESPN in July of 2002 and has worked on SportsCenter, the ESPY Awards, Playmakers, Tilt, Dream Job and 30 for 30. He also directed the documentaries “The Stars Are Aligned” for the launch of SEC Network and “Believeland” as part of 30 for 30.
An advance press screener is available upon request. Please contact Kimberly Elchlepp at [email protected]