MEMPHIS, Tenn. — This year the Southern Heritage Classic will look different, with Tennessee State University playing University of Arkansas Pine Bluff instead of Jackson State University.

But people in the community say that’s not the only difference they are seeing — some worry that the crowd won’t be as big as it was in previous years. 

“The crowd seems to be lighter as of this morning. I am not sure why, but hopefully later on it picks up,” Michael Garrett said.

The Garretts say they have tailgated at the Southern Heritage Classic for 12 years.

In the past, the parking lot would be full of grills and music starting on the Friday before the game. This Friday morning, they saw a mostly empty parking lot.

However, many blame it on no one telling UAPB the tradition.  

“Again, it’s UAPB’s first year,” Valerie Westbrook said. “So, they maybe not know quite the importance getting in, getting able to get everything unloaded and beat the traffic and all of that.”

In the parking lot, there are not as many RVs as in the past. Larry Dodson Jr. said the parade participation is a little different as well.

“Our parade in the past years, we had over 125 participants. This year, we are a little less than 100,” Dodson said.

Fred Jones, the founder of Southern Heritage Classic, says the change the community is seeing is because it’s the first year. He believes moving forward, not only will fans and alumni come out to support, but also the city of Memphis. 

“We’ll be fine. I’m not so much concerned about the attendance,” Jones said. “I just want everybody to enjoy it and participate it. And not worry about who’s not here. Just enjoy the moment.”