“I know why the students feel the way they do, but I think it’s important to acknowledge that there was a tragedy that took place,” said West, who also serves on the Board of Trustees. “We’re in no rush or any haste to speed this process up when we could miss steps or be negligent of things that could potentially be hostile to us in the future.”
Administrators also don’t want to appear insensitive as they attempt to rebuild the school’s reputation while negotiating with Champion’s family, which filed a lawsuit against the school.
There is also the issue of precedent.
FAMU’s chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity was suspended in 2006 when five members were charged with using wooden canes to beat a pledge during an initiation ritual. The fraternity might return next year.
Other fraternities and sororities have also faced multiyear suspensions because of hazing.
The athletic department tried to think out of the box as it filled the hole left by the Marching 100 during home games and football classics where the band was scheduled to perform.
The school hired popular DJs and rappers, to little success. On Saturday in Orlando, soul artist Charlie Wilson performed.
Only one marching band, Tallahassee’s Rickards High School, has been allowed to take the field at FAMU’s Bragg Stadium this year.
Darron Toston, a FAMU graduate who played trombone for the Marching 100 in the 1990s, attended every home game this year. He said his support of the school remains even while the band is away.
“Yes, I have loyalty to the 100,” Toston said. “But at the same time, the 100 wouldn’t exist without FAMU existing, so you gotta look at the bigger picture.”
Toston doesn’t like the “Free the 100” sweatshirts, which appeared more frequently as the season went on.
“The whole ’Free the 100’ movement is a slap in the face to the university who is trying to make sure that the 100 does come back but without any incidents like this happening again,” Toston said. “They’re trying to make sure that the 100 is there for everybody to enjoy, from the fans to the people that actually march in the 100.”