Southern Heritage Classic
|First meeting||September 8, 1990|
Tennessee State, 23–14
|Latest meeting||September 14, 2019|
Jackson State, 49–44
|Next meeting||September 12, 2020|
|All-time series||Tennessee State, 17–10|
|Largest victory||Tennessee State, 64–33 (2001)|
Tennessee State, 44–14 (2003)
|Longest win streak||Tennessee State, 7 (2003–2009)|
|Current win streak||Jackson State, 1 (2019– )|
|Locations of Jackson State, Tennessee State, and Memphis|
The Southern Heritage Classic presented by FedEx is an annual historically black college football game between the Tigers of Jackson State University and the Tigers of Tennessee State University since 1990. The game is broadcast on FOX Sports Southeast.
The record for attendance, 61,171, was set in 1997. Since the Jackson State-Tennessee State rivalry became a fixture in 1994, the average attendance for a Southern Heritage Classic game is 48,518. Eleven of those 22 games have drawn at least 50,000 fans. Both schools are roughly equidistant from Memphis, being located approximately 200 miles away. The 2001 game was moved from its originally scheduled date of September 15 to November 22 due to the events of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and attendance suffered as a result, drawing only 28,690.
Although the two teams played each other, the games were played at each team's home field on an alternating basis. That made it difficult for fans of the road team to travel en masse. TSU head coach Bill Thomas and JSU head coach W.C. Gorden discussed the possibility of playing annually at a neutral site in Memphis, which was roughly equidistant from both campuses. Doing so could benefit both schools by enhancing the rivalry and bringing in more dollars. Both schools have a large alumni base in the Memphis metro area.
They approached Memphis entrepreneur and entertainment producer Fred Jones Jr., since officials from both schools weren't familiar enough with the Memphis area.
The Southern Heritage Classic was founded and has been produced by Fred Jones Jr.
The Classic part of the series between the two schools began in 1990, with Tennessee State winning 23–14. There have been two years in which Jackson State did not participate—1991 and 1993. Mississippi Valley State played Tennessee State in 1991, and Grambling State was TSU's foe in 1993. Tennessee State has played in every Southern Heritage Classic since the game's inception in 1990, and TSU owns a 16–11 record in the contest.
The games have largely been close, hard-fought battles with three overtime games and 14 contests decided by a touchdown or less. The highest-scoring game was set in 2001, the game delayed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when Tennessee State beat Jackson State, 64–33, for a combined 97 points. TSU quarterback Shannon Harris passed for 360 yards and a Southern Heritage Classic record seven touchdowns in that game. Between 1995–2007 (13 games), nine were decided by seven points or less.
Tennessee State has dominated this rivalry of late, winning five in a row and 12 of the last 15 matchups.
Nearly 50 players that participated in the Southern Heritage Classic have gone on to play in the NFL, including four first-round draft picks: Lester Holmes (JSU offensive lineman, drafted 19th by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1993), Sylvester Morris (JSU wide receiver, drafted 21st by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2000), Rashard Anderson (JSU defensive back, drafted 23rd by the Carolina Panthers in 2000) and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (TSU defensive back, drafted 18th by the Arizona Cardinals in 2008).
The classic and several festivities affiliated with it annually generates approximately $21 million for the Memphis economy and $325,000 for each university. The game also features two of the most highly acclaimed show bands in the country, with JSU's Sonic Boom of the South and TSU's Aristocrat of Bands. They both give high-energy halftime performances that are as popular as the game itself. Also, the Southern Heritage Classic tailgating experience is a large draw and begins days before the game. Concerts and other events fill up the weekend calendar, drawing fans from all over the country. Past concerts have included headline stars such as Luther Vandross, The O'Jays, Gap Band, Gladys Knight and Usher.
|Jackson State victories||Tennessee State victories||Jackson State did not play|
- "Background | Southern Heritage Classic".
- "The 2005 Ford HBCU Football Classics Guide – The Southern Heritage Classic", Ebony (September 2005), p. 136
- Donahue, Michael (2016-09-02). "Southern Heritage Classic week is about more than football". Commercialappeal.com. Retrieved 2019-07-09.
- LunaWeb, Inc. (2015-09-12). "Background". Southern Heritage Classic. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
- "Jackson State vs Tennessee St". Southern Heritage Classic. Retrieved 2015-11-20.