MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The management company that operates the Southern Heritage Classic in Memphis filed suit against Jackson State University and others, after JSU announced it was pulling out of the annual football matchup.

Organizers like Classic founder Fred Jones were caught off guard by JSU’s unexpected announcement last month. JSU later agreed to play one more Classic against TSU this year, ending a 28-year run.

But according to the lawsuit filed Monday, JSU signed a contract in 2019 stating it would play in the series against Tennessee State university for five years, until 2024.

Plaintiff Summit Management Corporation said in the filing they’d already rented out the Liberty Bowl until 2024, and received no notice that JSU intended to terminate the contract until they received a letter in February. They say it’s unlikely they can find another school with the drawing power of JSU to play.

JSU’s decision to leave puts the school in breach of contract, SMC’s lawsuit claims, and the school should pay organizers an estimated $1.8 million a year for the next two years.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference, which SMC claims is scheduling a new series and wants JMU to play, also should pay an estimated $5.8 million a year, the plaintiffs say.

According to the lawsuit, JSU Coach Deion Sanders has said in interviews that the Classic, which pays JSU $350,000 in fees each year, is not profitable enough for the school.

The game and related events attracts around 40,000 fans, sometimes more, to the Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis each year.