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Pay to NOT play: Jackson State forks over $800K in Southern Heritage Classic settlement

Remember that time Jackson State University said it was going to skip the Southern Heritage Classic? Regardless of what the contract said?

Well, The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi is reporting that withdrawing from the Southern Heritage Classic cost JSU about $800,000, in a settlement payable to Summit Management Corp, which owns and operates the festival.

The Clarion-Ledger acquired a copy of the settlement through a Freedom Of Information Act request.

The document indicates that Jackson State and Summit entered a five-year agreement in 2019 for JSU to play in the classic.

A year later, NFL icon Deion Sanders was hired to coach the team, bringing unprecedented hype and excitement to the program. Wins followed, and by 2022, Sanders was questioning whether the Classic was worth it for his team.

“Seven busses for the band. We have four buses with all our people,” said Sanders in an Instagram post at the time. “And who else goes? Administration. Hotel accommodations. Food, all that. … By the time we get back, we’re broke.”

Jackson State announced in 2022 that they were withdrawing from the Classic for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. JSU defeated Tennessee State 16-3 in their final SHC appearance in 2022.

The University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff stepped up to fill the void in 2023, though they were defeated 24-14 in the 2023 Classic. UAPB and TSU will face off again for the 2024 Classic on Sept. 12-14.

Southern Heritage Classic founder Fred Jones Jr. quickly squashed rumors of Jackson State returning for 2025.

“There is absolutely no truth to the rumors that Jackson State and Tennessee State will play in 2025,” Jones said to The Clarion Ledger. “I don’t know where these rumors come from, but it is not true.”


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