After three decades, the Southern Heritage Classic pits a new team against Tennessee State. The Memphis-based classic announced on last week that University of Arkansas At Pine Bluff has signed a two-year deal to play in the Southern Heritage Classic. The teams are scheduled to play on September 9th, 2023 & September 14, 2024. This move comes on the heels of Jackson State University pulling out of the Southern Heritage Classic last year after former Jackson State University head coach Deion Sanders (now head coach at Colorado) criticized the classic believing that the JSU Tigers should have more home games as opposed to neutral site games. Next year’s Classic would be the first time that Tennessee State & Jackson State haven’t squared off the Tennessee-based bout since 1990.
Some critics of the team selection of the classic pondered if the event would garner the same alumni buzz and participation now that Jackson State isn’t involved. Southern Heritage Classic promoter Fred Jones Jr. said he isn’t worried.
“It was my number one choice especially when I started to do the research Little Rock, Arkansas, is the top 5 feeders into Memphis in terms of tourism.” Jones said to Fox 17 Nashville.
Jones also briefly spoke about the legal battle between Tennessee State, Jackson State and the classic that came about after Deion Sander’s comments and JSU pulling out the the game before the contracted ended in 2024. Jones said they’ve reached a settlement with Jackson State but wouldn’t disclose an amount.
“We had a very good relationship for 29 years, and you know, changes had to be made and we made them and we’re moving on.”
University Of Arkansas at Pine Bluff will be heading into the game with a new head coach after the dismissal of Doc Gamble in October. No hire has been named as of the time of this writing. We will keep you updated on this story.