MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Jackson State is back in the Southern Heritage Classic. School officials announced the change Friday, following last week’s reports that JSU would no longer participate in the game.
In a statement Friday, JSU said, “Last week, confidential legal correspondence between Jackson State University and Summitt Management Corporation was leaked, which did not reflect the ongoing communication between the parties. We understand how football fans plan to attend games months in advance, and it was never our intent to abruptly cancel participation during the 2022 season.
The 2022 Southern Heritage Classic game between JSU and Tennessee State University will be played as originally planned. We are pleased with this conclusion and look forward to bringing the SWAC Championship JSU Tigers back to Memphis in September for one final battle on the gridiron.”
Last week, in a letter sent to the Southern Heritage Classic, JSU officials said the Southwestern Athletic Conference, JSU's governing athletic conference, entered into an agreement where JSU would participate in events that conflict with the Southern Heritage Classic Agreement, which the school entered into in November 2019.
In the letter, JSU General Counsel Edward Watson said the conflict served as their termination notice for the game.
Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones Jr. issued a statement Friday afternoon saying while pleased JSU will play, he disagrees with the release the school sent out.
"We are pleased that Jackson State University will be playing Tennessee State University in the 33rd Southern Heritage Classic football game in Memphis on September 10, 2022. However, we do wish to set the record straight," said Jones. "JSU’s press release incorrectly states that JSU never intended to cancel the 2022 game. When JSU’s General Counsel wrote his 2/1/22 letter, he did not state that JSU will play in the 2022 Classic. He did not state that JSU would like to buy its way out of the 2023 and 2024 contract years and was putting us on notice that we need to try to find a replacement team. No. His letter was crystal clear.
The letter is entitled “Notice of Termination" dated 2/1/22 and the second paragraph begins with "Therefore, this correspondence shall serve as notice of JSU's termination of its participation in the Southern Heritage Classic and the Agreement between the parties.” Since receiving that letter, we have had several communications and JSU is now wisely mitigating damages for its breach of contract by honoring its legal commitment to 2022, but the contract has been breached."
Tennessee State University released the following statement:
"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."
Southern Heritage Classic organizers said the Classic ranked 4th in attendance among historically black college and university classic football games in the country last year. They said it has become a driving force for increasing revenue for Tennessee State and Jackson State.