Southern Heritage Classic canceled, believed to be first college football game called off due to COVID-19

A Division I college football game has been canceled due to COVID-19. 

The Southern Heritage Classic, the annual matchup between Tennessee State and Jackson State played at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, will officially not take place.

It is believed to be the first 2020 college football game canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

All events associated with the game played between the two historically black universities have also been canceled. The game was scheduled for Sept. 12. 

In a press release, event organizers pointed to the Shelby County Health Department’s “emergency relief efforts put in place to address COVID-19, specifically those regarding recreational or athletic activities.”

“The health and safety of our attendees along with that of our staff, sponsors, and others is a top priority,” said Fred Jones, the event’s founder. “I encourage everyone to keep practicing safety and social distancing measures so that we can return to our usual activities as soon as possible.”

Drum Majors of the TSU "Aristocrat of Bands" perform at halftime during the Southern Heritage Classic game between Jackson State and Tennessee State. (Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

According to event officials, the Southern Heritage Classic draws, on average, more than 75,000 attendees between the game, tailgating, a parade and other associated activities. Out of fear that the “massive crowds” could contribute to the spread of COVID-19, event organizers decided to cancel all events. 

“I know this is a great disappointment to many who consider the SHC one of the major highlights of the year,” Jones said. 

The Southern Heritage Classic dates back to 1990. This is the second time it has been canceled in the last three years. The 2018 game was called off due to inclement weather. This year’s Classic would have been the 31st edition.

Jackson State won last year’s game 49-44, snapping a six-game Tennessee State winning streak in the series. Both programs play at the FCS level, Jackson State out of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) and Tennessee State out of the Ohio Valley Conference.

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