MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s been more than 30 years since Fred Jones envisioned the Southern Heritage Classic that brought both Tennessee State University and rivals Jackson State University together for an annual meeting in Memphis.

However, with Jackson State not participating this year for the first time since the game’s inception, a new era begins as Arkansas Pine-Bluff makes its Southern Heritage Classic debut.

Friday afternoon, TSU head football coach and former Titans great Eddie George and UAPB’s head coach Alonzo Hampton met ahead of only the fourth meeting between the two programs.

“In (Memphis), you can feel the buzz, so our players are excited. Our alumni are excited. Tennessee State’s alumni are excited too. We’re ready to play football game,” said Hampton.

This is George’s third time coaching in the SHC and he’s still seeking his first win in Memphis.

“We’ve been the main constant in this game, without that team down South. But this year welcomes a new opponent. I’m pretty sure they’re going to see the value of being in Memphis and this adds just another chapter in this great history and this great tradition in terms of college football,” said George.

Besides the fanfare leading up to Saturday’s kick-off, both programs lost week one and are after their first win of the season.

“We understand what this game entails with all the distractions, we’re eliminating the distractions and getting down to the core of what matters that’s come down here. Trying to get a victory,” said George.

“All I can tell you, is this is going to be a great game. They’re looking for their first win of the season, and we’re looking for our first win too. And so it’s time to rumble,” said Hampton.

The tailgate at Tiger Lane begins at 8 a.m. with the 34th annual Southern Heritage Classic kicking off at 6 p.m. at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.