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An Even Better ‘Southern Heritage Classic’ in the Works
The Southern Heritage Classic – the annual clash between interstate rivals Jackson State and Tennessee State at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium on Sept. 13 – is one of the biggest events on the Memphis entertainment calendar. Founder Fred Jones and his staff are working late hours to make sure that fans from across the nation have the best time possible.
Jones, just off the phone at his office at Summit Management Company, dealt with a call concerning tailgating. “People would be amazed. This classic is like a jigsaw puzzle. There are a lot of pieces to have to fit to make it work,” Jones said.
It was getting late in the afternoon, but Jones said he was sitting in the office waiting for some proofs to be delivered. “You have to give close attention to details, giving special attention to public relations and marketing.”
Because of a boost from technology, more fans will be able to see the Classic. Last month it was announced at the FedEx Express World Headquarters that the 2008 Southern Heritage Classic presented by FedEx joins the world of high-definition sports broadcasts, as SportSouth will televise this year’s SHC opponents in “HD”. The HD debut of the 19th annual football game also will be broadcast on the American Forces Network (AFN) to a potential audience of 800,000 U.S. military personnel around the world, bringing the hard-hitting action to life for service men and women in 176 countries and U.S. territories and 200 Navy ships at sea.
“We are taking one of the country’s premier college football rivalries and expanding its reach to a truly global audience, all with dazzling clarity, color and detail that only high-definition can provide” Jones said. “These are milestones in the rich history of the Classic.”
Jones gives a lot of credit to Congressman Steve Cohen for assisting in putting together the overseas broadcast package. According to Jones, Cohen got a lot done in a tremendously short period of time. There have been responses from key figures with military ties. Sandra Hunter, stationed in Germany, said it was important that we have images from home.
Larry Brown, sponsor conference host and senior vice president and chief human resources officer for FedEx Express, described the Southern Heritage Classic, played the second Saturday in September, as “a sporting event that has become a cultural celebration.” FedEx is in its seventh year as the game’s presenting sponsor.
Jones predicts that the fans can look forward to an exciting game. Two of the last three battles have gone into overtime.
“Jackson State is coming in here on a high beam to win the SWAC and TSU will have a lot of offensive weapons,” Jones said. “Being televised for the second year by SportSouth shows commitment to us.”
The SHC has put together an agreement with University of Memphis Athletics Director R. C. Johnson to avoid scheduling conflicts. That means fans can plan to attend the SHC gridiron battles every second Saturday in September for the remainder of the contract, which has been extended until September 12, 2015.
Jones, a veteran of the national entertainment industry and owner/limited partner of the Memphis Grizzlies of the NBA, said the SHC has become an integral part of the Memphis Entertainment picture.
“Many people plan annual vacations around the Southern Heritage Classic football game and other Classic weekend events. Knowing that the game will be held on the second Saturday in September for the next eight years will definitely make it easy for them to plan ahead.”
Jones likes to play golf and used to find time to play in the Pro-Am of the St. Jude Classic. Jones rarely gets the opportunity now that the Classic seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.
“We will probably be as busy two weeks after as before the game on Sept. 13. “You begin talking to the sponsors in October to improve the partnership with the sponsors. We work hard with the corporate community. Without sponsorships we wouldn’t be able to pull this off. Commitment is what is important,” Jones said.
“From October to December, time is given to meeting deadlines. As a reporter you understand about deadlines. We have to work with the Fair, because they come after us at the fairgrounds complex.”
Jones doesn’t like to announce ticket sales updates. “We focus on work rather than numbers. Right now we are trying to make sure everything is in place,” he said. “We have 10,000 on e-mail and 45,000 on direct mail. My goal is to be like my alma mater, Booker T. Washington (high school.) We are tops; we lead and others follow. I want others to say, ‘I want to do a classic like Fred Jones.’”
The SHC will donate $285,000 to each university to fund educational activities. Tickets for the game and other Classic events went on sale last month at Ticketmaster outlets and www.ticketmaster.com.
An even better ‘Classic’ in the works
Special to the Tri-State Defender
Photo Credit: Warren Roseborough/The Tri-State Defender