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Saturday’s Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis featuring Jackson St. and Tennessee St. had the potential to be a great one.
While Eddie George kept his Tigers in the game, Deion Sanders’ Tigers simply had too much firepower and eventually pulled away to win the game, 16-3.
Afterward, while many celebrated a good event and reveled in the pageantry and fun-filled family atmosphere pulsating throughout the parking lot, others lamented that this would be Jackson St.’s final appearance in the Classic.
In March, Sanders made it known that after this year’s game he was done participating in the Classic.
It marked the end of an annual HBCU event that began in 1990, with the two Tigers teams facing off a total of 29 times.
Fans have a right to be disappointed in Sanders’ decision. The game drew big crowds, especially now that former NFL stars George and Sander were coaching the two teams.
This year’s event attracted over 51,000 fans for the 55th meeting between the two teams since 1949.
But the Classic is about much more than the gridiron product though.
It brings families together, fosters a fan-friendly atmosphere, generates money for some great causes and helps support local businesses.
That’s great, yet that’s what HBCU Classics primarily do, so it’s not abnormal.
But what they historically fail to do is support the bank accounts of team athletic departments, sometimes resulting in minimal gain or actual losses.
That’s what Deion recognizes, and that’s why he’s chosen to break from tradition in order to secure the future of Jackson St. football.
And he wants to spread the necessity of financial security to HBCU athletics as a whole.
For HBCU traditionalists, it’s a painful and infuriating decision.
But for HBCU realists, while sad, it’s a completely understandable one.
And it’s the correct move to make.
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