College Football Game Canceled Due to COVID-19

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The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding health guidelines have caused the cancellation of a long-running college football game.

The Southern Heritage Classic announced Wednesday that the annual game between Jackson State University and Tennessee State has been canceled. The 31st version of the rivalry game was scheduled to be held Sept. 12 in Memphis. Southern Heritage Classic officials announced that the decision was made due to health and safety guidelines in the Memphis area.

“The decision to cancel all events was made after SHC’s management reviewed a copy of the Shelby County Health Department’s Health Directive No. 6 detailing emergency management relief efforts put in place to address COVID-19, specifically those regarding recreational or athletic activities,” the release said, noting that the Southern Heritage Classic is traditionally a multiple-day event that brings in an average of more than 75,000 people each year.

The SHC website lists its mission as providing “an annual cultural celebration as the premier sports and entertainment event in Memphis that creates a strong economic impact and promotes higher education.”

“I know this is a great disappointment to many who consider the SHC one of the major highlights of the year,” SHC founder Fred Jones said in the release. “The health and safety of our attendees along with that of our staff, sponsors, and others is a top priority. I encourage everyone to keep practicing recommended safety and social distancing measures so that we can return to our usual activities as soon as possible.”

The SHC tweeted that “refunds for the football game can be received at the point of purchase.”

The pandemic also indirectly changed the start of the season for Kentucky and Eastern Michigan. Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart announced Tuesday that the season-opening nonconference game between the teams was moved from Sept. 5 to Sept. 3 to avoid being held the same day as the Kentucky Derby. The 146th Kentucky Derby was postponed from May due to the coronavirus.

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