FAMU may enter football season without famed band
By GARY FINEOUT
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) Florida A&M University's famed Marching 100 band - sidelined since the hazing death of one of its drum majors in the fall - might not be on the field for football games this season
The Marching 100 band - which has performed at Super Bowls and entertained presidents - has been one of the main attractions for years at Rattlers games. But more than four months after the death of Robert Champion, the band's fate remains in limbo, including the upcoming football season.
University trustees heard a lengthy presentation on Wednesday about a more than $1 million deficit this year in the school's athletic program. It was during that discussion that FAMU officials acknowledged they are looking at offering other entertainment at football games in case the popular band remains on hiatus.
President James Ammons suspended the band after Champion died following what police have said was a hazing ritual while the band was in Orlando.
The 26-year-old drum major's parents, Pam and Robert Champion, said Wednesday that they are frustrated by the lack of an arrest.
"We've been very patient, and we just feel like, we, as a family, need some answers," Pam Champion said from Atlanta.
A spokesman for the State Attorney's Office in Orlando said her office only received the case from detectives last week. The next grand jury is meeting on April 25.
"Our attorney will need time to review their extensive investigation before a decision can be made," said spokeswoman Danielle Tavernier.
But Champion's death drew attention to the persistence of hazing inside the Marching 100. Since December seven band members have been arrested in connection to hazings unrelated to Champion's death. Just last week Ammons placed two music professors on paid administrative leave following allegations they were present while band fraternity pledges were hazed.
Band director Julian White was initially fired by FAMU, but then the university placed him on administrative leave at the urging of law-enforcement authorities investigating Champion's death.
Ammons said Wednesday that until the investigations are complete he cannot say when the band will return.
"I think that information will be critical to us as we make a decision about how we go forward," Ammons said.
The culture of hazing in the band needs to be eliminated before the suspension is lifted, Pam Champion said.
"You have to address the root cause of the hazing. You have to clean that band up," she said. "We're not about ending the music but we're definitely about ending the hazing."
Mike Schneider contributed to this report from Orlando.
Updated April 4, 2012