The 2023 Southern Heritage Classic will take place Sept. 9 and the 2024 edition will be Sept. 14. Both games will be played at Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff will be the first school outside of Jackson State or Tennessee State to play in the Classic since 1993 when Grambling defeated Tennessee State 33-28. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-8, 1-7 SWAC) finished last in the SWAC West Division this season.
Event founder Fred Jones said when his staff did research, Arkansas-Pine Bluff was the No. 1 choice because it's three hours away from Memphis and there's a significant alumni base in the city. Arkansas-Pine Bluff also had availability to play both dates since most schedules are set up years in advance.
Jones also took note of the response that the school's marching band received after participating in Whitehaven's Christmas parade two weeks ago.
"It had to be a school that was similar to what we've always done here," Jones said. "You wanted to continue what we've done for 33 years. Great football, great halftime show and great family."
Summitt settles lawsuit with Jackson State
Jones added that Summitt Management Company, which owns and operates the Classic, has settled its lawsuit with JSU. In March, Summitt sued both JSU and the SWAC for what it called a coordinated a breach of contract after JSU informed Jones in February terminating its agreement for the final three years of the contract, which ends in 2024.
"We settled it to move forward to have Arkansas-Pine Bluff. It's not an issue moving forward," Jones said.
Former JSU coach Deion Sanders, who was named coach at Colorado last week, said before the season started he was pulling out of the game because he believed the school should be compensated more. JSU later agreed to play and won 16-3.
Both JSU and Tennessee State were paid $350,000 for this year's game, according to game contracts obtained by the USA TODAY Network.
According to the lawsuit, Summitt accused the SWAC of committing "wrongful interference with contractual relations" by pursuing JSU for its newly created SWAC Classic. Jones said that the lawsuit with the SWAC is still pending but declined to elaborate further.
For now, Jones was glad that the preparations for 2023 can continue without any speculation on the Classic's immediate future.
"The number one question I've heard is are we playing next year. The answer is a resounding yes," Jones said.
This article originally appeared on Memphis Commercial Appeal: Arkansas-Pine Bluff in, Jackson State out at Southern Heritage Classic