One of the great rivalries in all of college football is slated — for a least a few seasons — will be played at a neutral site.
Jackson State and Southern are currently working with the SWAC to play their annual matchup in Birmingham, Alabama at Legion Field as part of a SWAC Classic football involving the schools.
The Tigers and Jaguars are tentatively scheduled to play as non-conference opponents in the 2023 and 2024 seasons.
Jackson State will also play Arkansas-Pine Bluff — also part of the three-game series of games — this fall.
“We’re working on it, but we don’t have a signed contract,” Southern Athletic Director Roman Banks told The Advocate. “We’re coming off each other’s schedules, and we’re trying to keep the rivalry going. We all agree we couldn’t see ourselves not playing this rivalry. It’s one of the biggest in HBCU. We need to continue.”
The move compensates for an expanded SWAC that now has 12 teams with the additions of Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M. As a result of of the league’s 10-year rotating schedule model, Jackson State and Southern were set to come off each other’s schedule after the 2022 season.
“If you know the history of Southern and Jackson State, that’s a big rivalry,” JSU Athletic Director Ashley Robinson told the Clarion-Ledger. “For me, I think it’s probably even bigger than the Alcorn rivalry when you start looking at butts in the seats and revenue, and things that happen around the game. So the AD (Banks) and I worked together to say, ‘Hey, we can’t go those two years without Southern and Jackson State playing.”
Birmingham will provide incentives and in-kind services to SWAC in an amount not to exceed $200,000 in year one and $300,000 in years two and three of the agreement in which the game is played at Legion Field, the one-time home of the SWAC Championship Game.
Robinson explained that Birmingham offered the participating schools no-cost rent and operations as well as all the gate revenue from games played.
All told, the programs could generate more than $1 million in revenue, he said.
More importantly, the agreement keeps the matchup with Southern going without interruption.
“It wasn’t a situation like a lot of people thought that we were taking away home games for Jackson or Baton Rouge,” said Robinson. “It was simply two years that we were not going to play each other at all.”