TALLAHASSEE -- Florida A&M University abruptly canceled plans to name a new Marching 100 band director Tuesday morning, leaving an auditorium full of curious students, faculty and media wondering why the school couldn’t agree on a contract with the remaining finalist.
"Somehow they did not meet the negotiation process and they will not be able to name a candidate," university spokeswoman Sharon Saunders said.
The announcement is certain to draw nationwide scrutiny as the Marching 100 attempts to rebuild after the 2011 hazing death of drum major Robert Champion. The group is on suspension but could return as early as the fall.
The university has refused to say which of four finalists was offered the job, though Saunders said the person is in Tallahassee meeting with school officials to seal the deal.
Saunders said she didn’t know what specifically had hampered contract negotiations other than it had to do with concerns about the role of the band director in light of recent efforts to reorganize the band.
The school is in the process of hiring additional staff to create more oversight. Also, the position of band director has been separated from the position of music department chair.
FAMU announced Monday afternoon that the news conference would happen Tuesday morning. Band members have been buzzing about who got the job.
Many hoped Shelby Chipman, the associate director of bands who had been groomed for years to assume the top position, would be selected. But others suggested North Carolina Central University band director Jorim Reid, a former Marching 100 drum major, was offered the job.
Dontay Douglas, a senior from Miami who served as band president during the 2009 and 2010 marching seasons, said he has nothing against Reid but feels Chipman is the most qualified.
"He’s studied under legends in the world of music in this nation," Douglas said.
Former state Sen. Al Lawson, a longtime FAMU supporter, said overlooking Chipman would mean Interim President Larry Robinson and other university leaders had caved to outside pressure.
Chipman’s resume is full of accolades, Lawson said, and he should not be penalized for being on the Marching 100 staff at the time of Champion’s death.
"You should not let the politics of the band situation prevent a person of his caliber from getting the job," Lawson said.