One week after announcing that they would no longer participate in the Southern Heritage Classic, the defending SWAC champion Jackson State Tigers have now had a change of heart. Per reports, the game is back on and will be played as previously scheduled in 2022.
Last week the JSU Tigers issued a letter bowing out of the Classic for the next three years, as they’ve entered into a new agreement with Legion Field in Birmingham, with a scheduled series of games versus SWAC foe Arkansas Pine-Bluff set to begin this fall.
The 2022 Southern Heritage Classic game between JSU and Tennessee State University will be played as originally planned.
— Jackson State U. (@JacksonStateU) February 11, 2022
JSU said the information was leaked, as they were working with TSU and the SHC to figure out a solution, and that communication was still ongoing. JSU also said it was never their intent to just terminate the contract, knowing how far in advance events like this are planned.
Fred Jones Jr. Speaks On The Events: He Wasn’t Letting Them Off That Easy
Jones Jr. is the founder of the Southern Heritage Classic. Jones is an entertainment and production mogul and an original owner/limited partner of the Memphis NBA team, the Memphis Grizzlies.
He had this to say about the sudden turn of events.
“We are pleased that Jackson State University will be playing Tennessee State University in the 33rd Southern Heritage Classic football game in Memphis on September 10, 2022. However, we do wish to set the record straight. JSU’s press release incorrectly states that JSU never intended to cancel the 2022 game. When JSU’s General Counsel wrote his 2/1/22 letter, he did not state that JSU will play in the 2022 Classic. He did not state that JSU would like to buy its way out of the 2023 and 2024 contract years and was putting us on notice that we need to try to find a replacement team. No. His letter was crystal clear.”
Fred Jones spoke to the Memphis City Council this morning about all the great things the Classic brings to the City. We are grateful for the support we have received in the past, and we must have strong community and government support to remain successful. #ClassicMemphis #SHC pic.twitter.com/Y9vcK36ACF
— Southern Heritage Classic (@ClassicMemphis) November 16, 2021
The letter is entitled “Notice of Termination” dated 2/1/22 and the second paragraph begins with “Therefore, this correspondence shall serve as notice of JSU’s termination of its participation in the Southern Heritage Classic and the Agreement between the parties. Since receiving that letter, we have had several communications and JSU is now wisely mitigating damages for its breach of contract by honoring its legal commitment to 2022, but the contract has been breached.”
The Tennessee State Tigers, who were left without an opponent, now have one for at least the 2022 game but will need to seek others going forward.
That breach of contract suit was pending, and Jackson State compromised by saying they’d play this year but afterward they’re out.
The JSU administration had this to say in press release.
“We are pleased with the latest turn of events regarding the 2022 Southern Heritage Classic and look forward to all the excitement this event brings Tennessee State University, Jackson State University, and our respective fan bases. The tradition of the Southern Heritage Classic has always been about more than just the football game between TSU and JSU. It’s about seeing family and friends, and simply having fun.
The Memphis community prepares well in advance to ensure the success of the Classic and embraces these two outstanding institutions. This includes small and minority-owned businesses, as well as corporate partners. I am hopeful that all parties involved will speak soon as we move forward and continue the legacy of of the Southern Heritage Classic and this historic rivalry.”
Tennessee State University issues statement on Jackson State University pulling out of the Southern Heritage Classic, one of the most attended HBCU classic in the country. Read statement here. pic.twitter.com/d3o1Bw2kUg
— Tennessee State University (@TSUedu) February 3, 2022
Classic Does Well Yearly In Attendance: Outshines The Power 5 Liberty Bowl Game
The SHC traditionally does well as far as fan attendance, with an average of 75,000 to 80,000 in town for the weekend of events, and approximately 45,000 attending the game. That’s a great number for all those small and minority-owned businesses that depend on that type of financial windfall for survival. Without it, you could see a lot them fold or suffer greatly.
Also, having Deion Sanders and the Jackson State Tigers as the main attraction is sure to help boost visibility, revenue and everything else.
The 2021 edition, which featured Coach Prime on one sideline and Eddie George on the other, did great numbers after being canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Good to see this get resolved and at least come to a happy medium, but to see it end after 2022 is still kind of a disappointment.
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