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Institute for Public Service Reporting – Memphis

Audio Story

Southern Heritage Classic Begins New Rivalry, Fan Base

The scene outside the Liberty Bowl Saturday, Sept. 9 for the Southern Heritage Classic. (Redding Jackson/WKNO-FM)
The scene outside the Liberty Bowl Saturday, Sept. 9 for the Southern Heritage Classic. (Redding Jackson/WKNO-FM)

Southern Heritage Classic Begins New Rivalry, Fan Base

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Story Transcript:

CHRISTOPHER BLANK, HOST: Last Saturday, the Southern Heritage Classic returned to the Liberty Bowl, but new traditions were in the making. In past years, two football rivals — Tennessee State University and Jackson State — along with their fans — met for a night of sports and tailgating. WKNO’s Redding Jackson reports this year a new team and new fans started what could become an annual reunion. 

[Band music] 

REDDING JACKSON, REPORTER: Joyce Lloyd is back. 

JOYCE LLOYD: It’s just amazing there’s so many people out here. 

JACKSON: The Tennessee State alum has been coming for years with her son. Her surprise is because this was a year of change. Jackson State is no longer around, but a new team has brought fans like Dr. Tywanna Smith.

TYWANNA SMITH: As a West Memphis, Arkansas native, I’m rooting for the Arkansas team.

JACKSON: That’s the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. 

SMITH: I am very excited. Any time you can have these two historical institutions like UAPB and TSU come together, bring the community together, its an exciting time! 

JACKSON: The Southern Heritage Classic has been an annual game since 1990, featuring two historically Black Colleges on neutral turf. Memphis was halfway between Tennessee State and Jackson State in Mississippi. It’s still in the middle of Pine Bluff Arkansas and Nashville Tennessee. Though crowds were smaller this year, alumni came from across the country to take part in tailgating, barbecuing, and fraternizing with old classmates.

Darrell Ramsey is back after two years away. 

DARRELL RAMSEY:  We live in Los Angeles so we try to get down here anytime we can. We like the hospitality, the food, the people we dont have stuff like this where I live. 

JACKSON: He says HBCUs are mostly in the South, which is why it’s a destination event. 

RAMSEY: I try to get my friend down here from LA because they never experienced nothing like this. 

JACKSON: Brian Hewitt calls the game a big city family reunion — and a place to show off his culinary skills. 

BRIAN HEWITT: What we have on the grill is some good pork ribs, baby back pork ribs, some good angus beef hamburgers, of course so the circle beef smoked sausages–no cookout is complete without the circle beef smoked sausages. I also have some chicken wings, and some hotdogs.

JACKSON: For some, the line up change due to conference conflicts meant the end of an era. At least for Gregory Robie.

GREGORY ROBIE: It’s basically boring this year. I feel like compared to last year, you could barely move around. All this walking space out here. This was not here last year. 

JACKSON: Todd Tramel, making his second visit, says he would like to see different teams every year. 

TODD TRAMEL: All black colleges should get in this because we need to support the historically black colleges because that’s all we had back in the day.

JACKSON: If UAPB fans were in short supply Saturday, that could change in the future as the game rebuilds its fan base. Calvin Hinton says he doesn’t miss Jackson State.

CALVIN HINTON: I’m glad that UAPB is getting a chance to show their alumni and come here to perform and their band.”

JACKSON: Most importantly, he says, his favored team is still in the game.  

HINTON: TSU. I mean they got coach Eddie George. They gonna win. 

JACKSON: And they did. 24 – 12. For WKNO News, I’m Redding Jackson. 

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