The Program (1993 film)

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The Program
The program movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid S. Ward
Produced by
Written by
Music byMichel Colombier
Distributed by
Release date
  • September 24, 1993 (1993-09-24)
Running time
112 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15-20 million[1]
Box office$23 million[2]

The Program is a 1993 American drama film starring James Caan, Halle Berry, Omar Epps, Craig Sheffer, Kristy Swanson, and Joey Lauren Adams. The film was directed by David S. Ward who has directed and written other Hollywood films such as the Major League series.

The film touches on the season of the fictional Division I FBS (then IA) college football team, the ESU Timberwolves as they deal with the pressure to make a bowl game, alcohol and anabolic steroid abuse, receipt of improper benefits, and overall college life. It follows the trials of Coach Sam Winters (Caan), the Heisman Trophy candidate Joe Kane (Sheffer), the freshman running back Darnell Jefferson (Epps), their love interests (Berry & Swanson), and other team members.

The film was released by Touchstone Pictures in September 1993. The movie went on to gross over twenty million dollars at the box office. The film was shot on location at several American universities, including: Boston College, Duke University, the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa, and the University of South Carolina. While the college that is the main setting of the film is fictional, the teams opponents are real programs. The film includes a cameo appearance from Michigan coaching legend Bo Schembechler.


The ESU Timberwolves are entering a season with high expectations after two disappointing seasons, with coach Sam Winters (Caan) pressured to win this coming season or be possibly fired. Darnell Jefferson (Epps), a highly rated running back, is recruited by ESU, and falls for Autumn (Berry) as she shows him around the campus. Jefferson is introduced to junior NFL prospect Alvin Mack (Duane Davis), backup QB Bobby Collins (Jon Pennell), who is dating Winters' daughter Louanne (Adams), and senior Steve Lattimer (Andrew Bryniarski), a gunner on the return team who has gained 35 pounds with the goal of starting in his senior year.

Jefferson reunites with Autumn, but discovers she is dating the starting tailback Ray Griffen (J. Leon Pridgen II), who she had temporarily broken up because he had cheated on her. Jefferson takes his entrance exams, going to Mack and Lattimer for advice, who reassure Jefferson that the school will keep him eligible if he's talented enough to play. Jefferson fails to pass, and chooses Autumn as a tutor, who reluctantly agrees. Jefferson and Autumn grow closer, but Autumn is too ashamed to admit that she is dating him to her father, a former ESU football player, and eventually resumes her relationship with Griffen.

Sports Illustrated runs a cover story on junior quarterback Joe Kane (Sheffer), declaring him a Heisman Trophy candidate, but he starts drinking to deal with the pressure upon him. He meets tennis player Camille (Swanson), and develops a relationship. Meanwhile, concern grows that Lattimer is taking anabolic steroids. When Lattimer learns he has been named a starting defensive end, he shatters car windows with his head in the parking lot, witnessed by several people, including both the offensive and defensive coordinators, who agree not to tell Winters about the behavior, but warn Lattimer that the NCAA will be drug-testing before the start of the season. Lattimer substitutes clean urine for his own during the tests. The team has a good start in the first half of the season.

Louanne is expelled for taking a test for Collins, who is kicked off the team and also expelled. Lattimer assaults a girl unwilling to "hook up" with him, but her father is a large football booster and she drops the charges. Winters finally accepts that Lattimer is doping, but warned that suspension without failing a drug test would open the school for a lawsuit for jeopardizing his draft status. Lattimer is suspended for three games when he admits the drug use to Winters, with the team running a cover story of a pulled hamstring to keep it under wraps. Lattimer ceases taking steroids, with Winters telling him that he will not be allowed in the stall alone for the drug tests.

ESU lose to Michigan, questioning Kane's ability to win the trophy. Kane gets drunk in a bar and assaults another patron, hospitalizing the other man. He flees in another player's truck and is charged with a DWI. Winters negotiates a plea arrangement where all charges will be dropped if Kane successfully completes a 28-day program, but he will miss four games and effectively ends his Heisman candidacy. The team needs to win three games in the next five weeks to win the conference championship, so school officials pressure Winters into letting Collins back on the team in Kane's place and he agrees, vouching for him to the disciplinary committee. Collins is readmitted and the team goes 2-1 in the first three games with him under center. Lattimer passes his drug test, returning for the second-to-last game of the season against Iowa. Mack suffers a career-ending knee injury late in the fourth quarter and Lattimer is run over at the goal line by Iowa's running back for the game's winning score. Lattimer resumes taking steroids and has an associate remove tainted urine from his bladder and replace it with clean urine in a painful and dangerous procedure so that he can pass his next drug test.

Kane completes his program and attempts to reconcile with Camille and his estranged father, who has never seen him play, giving the latter a plane ticket to Florida for the team's final season game against Georgia Tech, that will win the conference title and secure a major bowl game. Jefferson is named the team's starting tailback and Griffen is moved to fullback, but Collins is selected as the starting quarterback despite Kane's return. When Georgia Tech leads 10-0 at half time, Winters starts Kane at quarterback in the second half. As he takes the field, Kane sees his father is not there, accepting that he will never see him play. Kane struggles to regain his rhythm but the game remains close, thanks in part to a goal-line tackle made by Lattimer to save the game. Afterwards, Winters notices Lattimer's eyes and realizes he continued taking steroids without failing a drug test. Kane rallies the team to victory, saving Winters' job, with both coach and quarterback realizing Kane will likely make another, more-promising run at the Heisman in his senior season.

Lattimer sits on the bench and cries instead of celebrating with the team, knowing he will not be able to play in the NFL without drugs. After the game, Autumn introduces Jefferson to her father as her boyfriend. Kane reunites with Camille, and the coaches leave on a recruiting trip for next season's freshmen, particularly a replacement for Lattimer.



Principal photography took place in and around Columbia, South Carolina, with the University of South Carolina doubling as ESU and Williams-Brice Stadium serving as the Timberwolves' home arena. A significant amount of filming also took place on the campus of Duke University.

Last names of the crew members were used on the back of jerseys for the extras who stood in as football players.

Bo Schembechler and Lynn Swann make cameo appearance playing themselves as commentators in the film.


Rotten Tomatoes, a review aggregator, reports that 43% of 21 reviewers gave the film a positive review; the average rating is 5.1/10.[3] James Berardinelli said, "prepare to be inundated by a load of feeble, unimaginative material that's almost impossible to take seriously."[4] Norman Chad of The Washington Post referred to the film as "one big cliche".[5]

Roger Ebert rated the film three stars out of four, putting particular emphasis on the amount of time spent on the relative ease in passing an NCAA drug test, saying "[a]nd the movie seems expert on how a lineman could pump himself full of steroids and still pass the NCAA drug tests."[6] Janet Maslin of The New York Times called it "routine" but praised the performance of Andrew Bryniarski, saying, "[w]hen high on steroids, he turns into a competition-crazed monster, but the film manages to make him likable anyhow."[7] Reviewing it on video, Entertainment Weekly gave the film a B− and wrote that it is better than its reputation.[8]


The film originally included a scene in which Kane reads aloud comically "It says here that I'm good under pressure," while holding a Sports Illustrated college football preview issue with him on the front cover. He then lies down in the middle of a road on the yellow line as cars barely miss him while moving at highway speeds. Several team members who are at first trying to stop Kane decide that it is a test of their bravery and team unity and join him. Influenced by the film, several teenagers imitated this scene and were either killed or suffered injuries. This resulted in the scene being removed from the film after its release.[9] A brief clip of the scene in question showing team members lying in the street had already been aired repeatedly in the television commercials for the film and therefore captured on VCRs. Later versions of the trailer had the clip removed.

The only known home video release with this scene intact is the Hong Kong laserdisc published by Taishan International. This version of the film is three minutes longer than the theatrical cut and clocks in at a 115-minute run time. The Australian dvd release of this film has the entire scene still in tact it also is on the now very hard to find Australia vhs tape


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Program". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  3. ^ "The Program (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  4. ^ Berardinelli, James. "The Program". Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  5. ^ Chad, Norman (1993-11-03). "'Rudy' (PG) and 'The Program' (R)". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1993-09-24). "The Program". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2016-07-03 – via
  7. ^ Maslin, Janet (1993-09-24). "Review/Film; Blocking, Tackling, Matriculating". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  8. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (1994-02-11). "The Program". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2016-07-04.
  9. ^ Hinds, Michael (October 19, 1993). "Not Like the Movie: A Dare Leads to Death". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-06-08.

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