TALLAHASSEE -- Florida A&M University’s acclaimed Marching 100 band will return from a 19-month suspension following the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.
When the band will return and what it will look like are not yet determined.
“Considering all of the measures we have put in place, I believe that this constitutes what I’ve been saying for the past several months: the right conditions to lift the suspension of the Marching 100,” interim FAMU President Larry Robinson said during a news conference Thursday morning attended by more than 100 students and FAMU supporters.
Before announcing the band would be allowed to return, Robinson talked about all the changes that had taken place at FAMU since Champion’s death after the Orlando Classic football game in November 2011. That includes training for students and staff, hiring new staff and building an anti-hazing website where students can file reports anonymously.
“I want to re-emphasize that I’m taking this action based upon all the work that has been done over this last year-and-a-half to ensure that we have an even safer campus for students at this university,” Robinson said.
New band director Sylvester Young, on the job just two weeks, will decide when the Marching 100 is ready to return. He has begun evaluating students, and a marching band class meets every Monday and Wednesday. While interviewing for the job, Young said he could have the band ready to perform by the first game of the year: the MEAC-SWAC Challenge in Orlando on Sept. 1.
“We’ve been working as if that date was the ideal,” Young said, “however we’re still working to get things ready and I guess at some point we’ll make a decision about that.” The decision will largely depend on whether students are ready, he said.
Scaled-down performances could be the standard, at least early on.
Usually, the Marching 100 is the star of FAMU home games and even most away games. The band performs before the football team takes the field, at halftime and from the stands throughout the game. Members often stay behind afterward to show off their musical skills and challenge opposing bands, a ritual known as the “Fifth Quarter.”
Today, FAMU has new standards in place for how many hours the band can practice each week, limits on how many years students can participate in the band and stricter limits on requirements for band scholarships. That could mean the Marching 100 is smaller than it was during its last season, where ranks swelled to over 400 members by some reports.
At the conclusion of the news conference, supporters broke into cheers and then a song: “I’m So Glad I’m From FAMU.”
Jeremy Linnen, a tuba player from Fayetteville, N.C., said he is excited to return to the field after losing a season to the suspension. And he believes the focus on bringing back the musical standards that made the Marching 100 a world-renowned band will leave no room for hazing activities that caused the band’s downfall.
“As a student, I feel like we have to work really hard so that when we can come back it will be the same band you saw,” he said.