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The ‘Classic’ that couldn’t go on

Game Day for the 29th Annual Southern Heritage Classic unfolded in line with tradition. Onlookers turned out for the much-anticipated Orange Mound parade, with University of Memphis head basketball coach Penny Hardaway and assistant coach Tony Madlock serving as honorary grand marshals.

It was fun as usual before storms packing lightning forced cancellation of the 29th Annual SHC. (Photo: Tyrone P. Easley)

The music was pumping on Tiger Lane and on parking lots around the perimeter of Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. The annual traffic jam to enter the stadium had drivers creeping, with many looking for just the right place to park at the right price.

The every-year challenges notwithstanding, things were pretty much following script en route to the 6 p.m. kickoff. Rain was heavy in the forecast, but The Classic had weathered such hurdles before. But this was going to be different.

The rain came courtesy of a thunderstorm that also packed lightning. According to NCAA weather policy, no game can be played while lightning is within an 8-mile range. Once lightning is detected within the defined radius, the situation is reassessed in 30-minute increments.

Sheltered and hopeful. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

With fans seeking shelter outside and inside of the stadium, the process of evaluating the weather conditions continued throughout the night until finally at 9:30 p.m. came an announcement – the game was canceled, with the promise of details to come.

Those later details included the sobering fact that conflicting schedules for Tennessee State and Jackson State meant the game would not be played this year. That was a stunner – and a first. The Classic had been postponed in wake of the 9/11 terrorist attack but was played later in 2001.

“This is not only a huge disappointment to the fans but to myself and the Classic staff, both universities, and the many Classic ambassadors (volunteers) who work hard to organize it each year,” SHC founder Fred Jones Jr. said in a written statement he’d never had to prepare before.

A long night of waiting comes to an end. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Ticket holders seeking refunds were told they could do so at the point of purchase. The next football game between the two teams will be played on Saturday 14, 2019 – the date of the 30th Annual Southern Heritage Classic.

Jones thanked everyone for hanging in as the decision was weighed on whether the game could be played and for their ongoing supporting.

“He ended his prepared statement this way:

“We thank everyone who has supported the Southern Heritage Classic throughout the years. Each person is an invaluable part of what has become a time-honored tradition, and we look forward to having that support for many years to come.”

Ticket refund information:


Refunds will be issued beginning Monday, September 10th. For more information, visit www.ticketmaster.com or call 1-800-745-3000.


Refunds will be issued at the stadium box office Tuesday, September 11th – Thursday, September 13th from 10 am – 6 pm CST. Those who cannot return to the box office, must mail their tickets to the following address to receive a refund: 

Pat Agnew

c/o Southern Heritage Classic

4466 Elvis Presley Blvd., Ste. 248

Memphis, TN 38116

 For more information, contact the Southern Heritage Classic at 901-398-6655 or 1-800-332-1991.


 Refunds will be issued beginning Tuesday, September 11th. For more information, contact the Jackson State Ticket Office at 601-979-2420.


 Refunds will be issued beginning Tuesday, September 11th. For more information, contact the Tennessee State Ticket Office at 615-963-5841.



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