MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s always a money maker for Memphis, this time the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is for the first time – playing in the Southern Heritage Classic.
“Most people don’t understand the magnitude of what this means to UAPB. We’re a small school but we got massive numbers,” said UAPB Alum Darnell Walker.
Officials said this past September’s Southern Heritage Classic drew 51,351 people to events.
The big question on many Classic fans’ minds - would the event without Jackson State pull the same or bigger numbers?
“There are a lot of alums from the school in the Memphis area and then Arkansas especially around the Little Rock area is a big feeder market for Memphis tourism area already,” said founder Fred Jones.
Jones said local enthusiasm went into the decision for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
This is the first year Pine Bluff will be playing against Tennessee State University in the Classic following an over two-decade-long rivalry run against Jackson State.
“We agreed to go separate ways. But I have all the respect in the world for Jackson State they were here for 29 years,” said Jones.
The gut decision Jones made on Pine Bluff nearly brought happy tears to Walker.
“You’re going to get people coming from Little Rock, you got people coming from Pine Bluff, Dumas, Atlanta. All the way from Dallas, Chicago, and St. Louis, Missouri. We’re coming in massive numbers, baby," said Darnell Walker.
Preparations for the game are already in the works.