NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – It was a Tennessee State University takeover in every sense of the word as the City of Memphis turned TSU blue for the 34th Annual Southern Heritage Classic (SHC). Simmons Bank Liberty Bowl Stadium was also filled with excitement following head coach Eddie George and the Tigers’ thrilling victory over the University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff 24-17. The win culminated a weekend of events highlighting the special connection between the University and the Bluff City.
This year’s classic also held a deeper significance for TSU ever since President Glenda Glover announced her retirement in August. “It’s an exciting win,” President Glover said. “There’s nothing like coming back to your hometown, being with your friends and family. Knowing that this is my last time to win in this stadium as president of TSU makes it all the more special.”
It was also special because it was the world-renowned Aristocrat of Bands’ first appearance at the classic since winning a Grammy earlier this year. The band was the highlight of the classic parade, bringing back childhood memories for TSU senior Oryanna Davis. Davis is a current cheer coach of the Little Tigers and has attended every SHC since birth.
“I’ve been to every Classic in my 21 years,” Davis, a Memphis native, said.
The TSU business administration major said her favorite part of the Classic every year is witnessing the Aristocrat of Bands (AOB) dominate the halftime show. She also mentioned that another highlight is being a part of the annual Orange Mound Classic parade with support from her family, friends, and former teammates. Davis was a part of the TSU cheer team for two years before becoming a Little Tigers coach.
“I am around the people I love and doing what I love,” she said. “So being able to support the university and also have people around me support me is special.”
Hundreds of people lined the route to see the floats and participants in the annual parade, including President Glover, AOB, TSU student leaders, and local bands from across the Mid-South filling the streets. You could hear Davis’s family cheering her on from the parade’s sideline. Davis’s mother, Janine Jolliffi, said it takes a village to raise and educate children, emphasizing that the heritage of the classic is more than just a football game or a parade.
“It’s an all-out community event,” the Memphis native said. “We want to cheer for them, support them, and see them succeed. Not only in the parade, but we also want to cheer them on in education as well.” Davis’s younger brother, 14-year-old Omari Jolliffi, said their family has always been a part of TSU, even before his sister enrolled.
“The parade is a great thrill and rush I look forward to every year,” Omari said. He also stated that he plans to follow in his sister’s footsteps and graduate from TSU with hopes of becoming a veterinarian.
The classic means more than the action on the field for TSU. It is also a significant effort in recruiting young students like Omari. West Tennessee, North Mississippi, and specifically Memphis are fertile grounds to recruit top high school students.
The TSU Office of Enrollment Management and Student Success spoke with many future Tigers during the Classic College and Career Fair at Liberty Park in Memphis. LaMar-Octavious Scott, the director of admissions, said the college fair was an outstanding experience as local high school students were eager to learn how to become a part of the Tiger family.
“Not only was this a great way to promote the institution, but to be able to put the students in the front seat to their future,” Scott said. “It’s a great level of exposure that often helps meet the student’s expectation of wanting to attend an HBCU.”
Scott revealed that the office of enrollment had forged powerful connections with community leaders, igniting a surge in exposure through collaborative partnerships and initiatives. As the fair unfolded, there were over 2,650 students in attendance, more than 100 student inquiries, and 20 who were granted on-the-spot admissions.
Attendance for the football game was 32,518 with UAPB as a first-time opponent. With additional events such as the Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium tailgate, the Penny Hardaway Memphis District Golf Classic, and the Classic concert starring Gladys Knight, the 34th annual Southern Heritage Classic will be one to remember.