“We have a contract,” Southern Heritage Classic founder responds to JSU announcing return to Memphis in 2022

Jackson State will return for one final Southern Heritage Classic
Jackson State will return for one final Southern Heritage Classic
Published: Feb. 11, 2022 at 10:59 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Friday, officials with Jackson State University said they are looking forward to bringing the team back to Memphis for one final battle on the gridiron.

Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones says he’s relieved that Jackson State has agreed to return.

The Southern Heritage Classic has had its fair share of bumps and bruises.

In 2018 the game was cancelled due to weather, in 2020 COVID-19 was the culprit.

In 2021 the game barely happened after a sudden uptick in COVID-19 cases.

“Yeah, along the yellow brick road something happens, but the classic has I think it has shown that durability,” said Jones.

In 2022 the highly anticipated game is facing new turmoil.

Classic founder Fred Jones says he was completely caught off guard when he received a letter on February 1 from Jackson State’s legal counsel, stating after 28 years the University was pulling out of the game due to a scheduling conflict with the Southwestern Athletic Conference.

Jones and his management company signed an agreement in 2019 for Tennessee State and Jackson State to play through 2024.

“The fact of the matter is, we had a contract, we have a contract legally binding contract that needed to be addressed,” said Jones.

In a statement released Friday, Jackson State said confidential legal correspondence between Jackson State University and Jones management company was “leaked, which did not reflect the ongoing communication between the parties.”

The statement went on to say that it was never the university’s intent to abruptly cancel participation during the 2022 season.

“The statement wasn’t really accurate because he gave the indication that there was prior conversation or correspondence between us,” said Jones.

Jones also points to the original letter from the university which never said that JSU would play in the 2022 classic.

“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,” said Jones in a press release.

The rivalry game has received criticism, specifically from Jackson State’s new hall of fame head football coach Deon Sanders who told the Undefeated earlier this week that these games need to be more financially equitable.

“These classics aren’t beneficial for us. The fans can kick and scream all they want, but they have to understand we’re doing business in the SWAC,” said Deion Sanders to the ESPN online publication.

“You know that’s a case of somebody who really doesn’t know why these classics even came about,” said Jones.

Jones says before the classic, Jackson State and Tennessee State were making about $20,000 a piece to play at each other’s respective schools.

At the start of the Southern Heritage Classic In 1990, Jones says each team was paid 50,000 a piece to play in Memphis.

Currently each team takes home about $350,000.

“I appreciate what Deion is doing for historically black schools, but it doesn’t dismiss or diminish what we have accomplished with the Southern Heritage Classic,” said Jones.

Tennessee State University’s President Glenda Glover said in a statement that she is pleased with the latest turn of events.

Glover said in part: “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 Southern Heritage Classic will be played September 10th.

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