MEMPHIS, Tenn.– Jackson State University is back in the Southern Heritage Classic for one final game in 2022.
The announcement Friday came after the university previously said it was pulling out of the historic match up.
Fred Jones, Southern Heritage Classic Founder, said he’s glad JSU is back in the game.
“Our theme this year is let the good times roll and that’s what we intend to do,” Jones said.
Friday, the university announced it would play this year’s classic game after the bombshell announcement the team would no longer participate.
Confidential legal correspondence was leaked and did not reflect ongoing communication and it was “never our intention to abruptly cancel,” JSU said in a statement.
“That’s not true, we only found out about the cancellation when we got the notice from the lawyer,” Jones said. “I got the letter February 1st at 6 p.m. to be terminated.”
WREG asked Jones how he felt when he opened that letter.
“I think the one word was just disappointing,” he said.
Tens of thousands of fans flood Memphis each year for the celebration, bringing millions of dollars to the city, with customers investing in small owned businesses like The Four Way restaurant.
“When they said they weren’t going to participate I held my breath for a minute because I don’t think Deion Sanders understood the gravity in what he was dealing with, but we so thankful they decided to come on home,” said Jerry Thompson, the owner of the restaurant.
Jones said on average the classic could cost around $1.5 million to produce with each school being paid $350,000 to play.
But at the end of the day he said it not about the game or money.
“The whole idea was to create something that would keep the rivalry intact and we’ve done that. Keep the culture in tact and we created this southern heritage classic in Memphis to do that and I’m proud of that,” Jones said.
TSU President Glenda Glover expressed similar sentiments, saying the Classic is more than just a football game for both universities.
“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 recruitment and scholarships for talented students for both universities. It’s also 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 the Southern Heritage Classic and this historic rivalry. ”Glenda Glover, TSU President
This will be the 33rd year for the classic. As for who could replace JSU, Jones wouldn’t say just yet.