MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was a moment that’s been two years in making. The Southern Heritage Classic returned after being canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rained out in 2018.
Since Thursday, fans of both JSU and TSU tailgated at the Liberty Bowl. Many described the atmosphere of the Classic as a family reunion.
This year’s game had extra meaning because both programs are led by Hall of Fame coaches in Deion Sanders and Eddie George.
After back-to-back years of cancellations, fans say they have been longing for this opportunity to connect with one another after being apart for long due to the pandemic and other obstacles.
“Aye man, the atmosphere is the camaraderie of all people,” said fan Alex Nichols. “Not just Black people, but everybody, and everybody having a ball and having a good time and having a good spirit time. All your Greeks, all your sororities, all your frats and everybody.”
Giving the amount of people that the Classic draws, it is also a major boost to the local economy, especially small businesses. Memphis Tourism estimates that it will exceed $6 million.
“It’s been going excellent. It’s a complete change from last year,” one fan said. “We depend so heavily on it. We’re competing against big like Walmart, you know the big retail stores. It’s important that you spend money with people who live right next to you.”