Jackson State University has pulled out of the Southern Heritage Classic that it plays against Tennessee State University, and it’s ruffling feathers. Get the full story from Khari Thompson at the Mississippi Clarion Legend below.

Jackson State athletic director Ashley Robinson and head coach Deion Sanders put index fingers up with the JSU mascot, players, and others after winning in the Southern Heritage Classic between Tennessee State University and Jackson State University at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn., on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Credit: Henry Taylor/Commercial-Appeal).

Jackson State football will no longer participate in the annual Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis against Tennessee State, according to event founder Fred Jones. 

Jones said JSU informed him it would be terminating the agreement for the remaining three years on the contract Tuesday night. The contract wasn’t set to expire until 2024. 

“As far as right now, they said they want to terminate the agreement,” Jones said. “That’s all we have right now. There will be a response back from us to the lawyer later today.”

The letter terminating the agreement was obtained by WJTV in Jackson and posted to Twitter on Wednesday. The letter was sent from JSU general counsel Edward Watson and addressed to Jones.

“On or about Nov. 8, 2019, Jackson State University entered into the Southern Heritage Classic agreement with Summitt Management Corporation relating to JSU’s participation in the Southern Heritage Classic,” the letter stated. “Since that time, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, JSU’s governing athletic alliance, has entered into an agreement in which JSU will participate in events that conflict with the Southern Heritage Classic.”

JSU and TSU have met 28 times since the Classic began Sept. 8, 1990, with Tennessee State leading the series 17-11. Jackson State won last year’s meeting, the first between coaches Deion Sanders and Eddie George, 38-16, and the game is typically one of the biggest events on both schools’ schedule. 

“There are thousands of people that support this event and have supported it over the years,” Jones said. They are devastated. Truly devastated. The way this has played out so far, it makes it a bitter pill to swallow.”

Tennessee State called Jackson State’s decision to pull out of the classic “an insensitive and irresponsible act” that has far-reaching implications beyond football in a statement from TSU president Glenda Glover. 

“The Memphis business community, including small Black-owned businesses, many of which are mom and pop businesses, will suffer incalculable damage,” wrote Glover. “These businesses rely on contracts that are generated as a result of activities associated with the game and purchase supplies and other items in preparation for this annual event.”  

Glover was also displeased that Tennessee State found out about Jackson State’s decision through another organization.   

“What’s even more disappointing is that there was no opportunity for discussion or a courtesy call to the TSU president, director of athletics, or head coach before the decision was made to breach the contract which has three years remaining. TSU found out from a national scheduler,” wrote Glover. 

The cancellation comes less than a week after Jackson State reached a three-year agreement to play in the SWAC Classic, a new in-conference showcase at Birmingham’s Legion Field starting next season. JSU also is scheduled to play in the Orange Bottom Classic on Sept. 4 against Florida A&M for the second straight season. 

“The letter speaks for itself. I’m staying away from interpreting things,” Jones said. “I’m just on the runway trying to figure out if I can take off or which way I’m going to go. We’ve had issues before with 9-11, (Hurricane) Katrina, rain, COVID. (But we’ve) never had one of the schools say, ‘We’re not going to play. We’re going to breach the contract.’ Because, it’s a clear breach.”