From early September through the Holidays in December and January, one thing and one thing only dominates southern life: College Football. Though some will say it’s just a game, we know it’s so much more. College football brings us together at the office. It divides us in our houses. It gives us good reason to wear loud colors and call radio stations to rant. College football taps into a unique southern spirit, and there may be no more unique college football event in the country than the annual Southern Heritage Classic.
The Southern Heritage Classic is one of the biggest HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) rivalry games of the year. Since 1990, upwards of 40,000 fans annually have come from Jackson State University and Tennessee State University to Memphis and Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium to see their respective alma-maters battle it out for annual bragging rights. Running from September 7 - 9, 2023, the 34th annual Southern Heritage Classic will feature a new matchup, pitting the Tennessee State Tigers against the Golden Lions of Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Southern Heritage Classic History
Since 1989, the Southern Heritage Classic started like so many great ideas, out of necessity. The two teams played each other regularly, but the geographic distance dampened attendance, especially for the visiting squad. The question then was to increase attendance and and make this great game a two-sided affair? At some point in the late 80s, a solution emerged: Host the game in Memphis, a geographically neutral location accessible to both campuses and a hotbed for both schools’ alumni. And like so many great ideas, the benefits far exceed the initial intentions. For over 30 years, the Classic has become more than a way to boost attendance. It’s become a celebration of HBCU’s.
And with that celebration comes so much more than the game, which, by the way has featured future super bowl participants like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Anthony Levine and Lamar Divens.
the can’t-miss events during Southern Heritage Classic weekend:
Note: Check back soon for the updated 2023 Schedule.
Thursday, September 8
Just Heal Bro Tour
7 p.m., Michael D. Rose Theater at University of Memphis
This free educational program designed for Black men focuses on finding strength and healing through mental health awareness. Learn more at www.justheal.co.
Classic Concert presented by AARP Tennessee
8 p.m., Orpheum Theatre
Enjoy an evening with The O’Jays on their Last Stop on the Love Train farewell tour. Get tickets today.
Friday, September 9
Classic College & Career Fair
9 a.m., Pipkin Building at Tiger Lane/Liberty Park
Join representatives from regional colleges and universities to learn more about college admissions. Learn more.
Classic Coaches Luncheon presented by FedEx
Noon, Renasant Convention Center/Grand Ballroom
The Classic Coaches Luncheon pays tribute to the coaches of the Southern Heritage Classic, Eddie George of TSU and Deion Sanders of JSU, with four-time NBA All-Start and University of Memphis Men’s Basketball Coach Penny Hardaway as the special guest speaker. This star-filled luncheon is by invitation only.
Classic Funk Festival
8 p.m., Landers Center
Don’t miss ConFunkShun, The Bar-Kays, SOS Band and Original Lakeside live in concert at the Classic Funk Festival. Get your tickets on ticketmaster.com.
Saturday, September 14
8 a.m., Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium parking lots and Tiger Lane
A tradition like no other, the Classic Tailgate is full of friends, food and football. Call (901) 729-4344 for more info.
Penny Hardaway Memphis District Golf Classic
8 a.m., Tunica National Golf & Tennis
Hit the greens at Tunica National Golf & Tennis for the Penny Hardaway Memphis District Golf Classic. Entry to this four-man scramble is $500 per team, with proceeds benefitting youth golf programs. Click here for more information.
9 a.m., Along Park Ave. from Haynes to Airways
Attend the Classic Parade, presented by the Orange Mound Community Parade Committee (OMCPC). See high school marching bands parade down the streets of Memphis in honor of the Southern Heritage Classic. Find out more at http://www.omcpc.com/
Classic Fashions & Brunch
11 a.m., The Guest House at Graceland
The Memphis chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. invites you to the Classic Fashions & Brunch. This year’s theme is “A Touch of Elegance.” For ticket information, visit www.memphisncbw.org.
Classic Battle of the Bands
11 a.m., Whitehaven High School Stadium
High school show bands from around the region will compete to crown the best of the best at the Classic Battle of the Bands. Don’t miss these incredible young musicians performing show-stopping routines. Call Kellen Christian at (901) 214-6094 for ticket information.
33rd Southern Heritage Classic Football Game
6 p.m., Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium
Round out the weekend with the great football rivalry between Tennessee State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff. Tickets start at $23. Reserve your seats today!
AutoZone Halftime Show
Halftime, Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium
TSU's Aristocrat of Bands and JSU’s Sonic Boom of the South take the field for a halftime show you won’t want to miss.
Classic 5th Quarter
Postgame, Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium
Once the final whistle is blown and the teams leave the field, a new competition begins. The Classic 5th Quarter battle of the bands brings another level of bragging rights.
Please check social media as you’re making plans, as all events are subject to change.