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Nashville, Tenn. - The Tennessee State University Department of Athletics kicked-off the 2012 football season this morning with a press conference at LP Field.

The meeting gathered representatives from both teams to promote the 14th Annual John Merritt Classic (JMC).

The press conference on Thursday morning was hosted by former Channel 5 Sports Director and long time friend of John Merritt, Hope Hines.  Also joining the master of ceremony were TSU's Director of Athletics, Teresa Phillips, and head football coach Rod Reed; along with Florida A&M head football coach, Joe Taylor, joined by assistant sport's information director Ronnie Johnson.

Other dignitaries in attendance included: Tennessee State University interim president, Dr. Portia Shields and Beth DeBauche (OVC Commissioner).

"We have worked hard to get FAMU up to Nashville and then for us to go down to Tallahassee," said Teresa Phillips. "We've done that, so now we are excited about the game and looking forward to it."

The John Merritt Classic will be held on September 1, at LP Field. The game will mark Rod Reed's third JMC as a head coach and the first with Florida A&M as the opponent.

"I'm excited to play Florida A&M again after losing seven in a row in the series before finally winning in 2010," commented Coach Reed. "I have a lot of respect for FAMU coach Joe Taylor.

The John Merritt Classic, first played in 1999, honors John A. Merritt, the legendary TSU football coach who led the Tigers from 1963 - 1983.

During 21 seasons, "Big John" won four undisputed national championships among historically black colleges ranked by the Sheridan Poll, compiled a lifetime record of 172-33-1, and built a powerful program that produced NFL stars like Richard Dent (Chicago Bears), "Jefferson Street" Joe Gilliam (Pittsburgh Steelers), Ed "Too Tall" Jones (Dallas Cowboys), Claude Humphrey (Atlanta Falcons) and many others.

The JMC, one of four HBCU football Classics solely hosted by a single NCAA FCS institution, is intended to allow Tennessee State University to raise funds for scholarships and other related needs for TSU students. The Classic also provides an opportunity for community outreach with its weekend of activities.


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