The Marching 100 has returned to FAMU. The storied marching band known for its fancy footwork and its bombastic support of FAMU’s football team, the Rattlers, returned to the field this semester after a 653 day suspension. Robert Champion Jr., a member of the band was brutally beaten and died in a hazing incident in 2011. His death lead to an overhaul of the marching band which once numbered over 400, and the resignations of the bandleader and the school’s president. Now, with a streamlined band, a new bandleader and a strict anti-hazing policies, the FAMU 100 returned to action this holiday weekend in the MEAC/SWAC challenge.
The band returns over the objections of Champion’s family, who felt the suspension wasn’t long enough. They have filed suit against the bus company (Champion was beating during a hazing ritual on a bus during an away game) the hotel the band stayed in and FAMU. The suit remains unresolved.
“It’s too soon for the band to be back on the field simply because there is nothing to indicate the safety of student is being considered at all,” Champion’s mother, Pam Champion, told The Associated Press “I still feel there has been a rush to put the band on the field and that rush … has to do with finance. They are putting profit before safety.”
But Joe Bullard, the Tallahassee-based radio announcer who is also the longtime voice of the Marching 100, says he is happy to see the band back on the field.
Their performance in Orlando began with a moment of silence for hazing victims.
“The Hundred is back. Mississippi Valley State bought their hillbilly band to Orlando. They were just like the Clampetts. I think they were on a field trip. There are three field commanders this year, for now. But at this point, size does not matter. This is rebuilding time. It’s a new day.” Songs the band performed in an almost 8-minute performance were “Fine China,” “Suit and Tie,” a tribute to Mickey Mouse due to the Orlando host, “Body Parts” and “Blurred Lines.”
The FAMU Rattlers must have been inspired by the return of the band as they beat Mississippi Valley State 27-10.
Because of new restrictions on scholarships, time band members can remain the the band, G.P.A. requirements and other policies intended to shore up the academic and personal character of the band, the Marching 100, which once numbered more than 400, is at about 126 members. But alumni, band members and students alike understand that the new policies are what the band, and the school, needs to reestablish its reputation.
“Yes we have a tradition here, a great legacy of excellence,” student body president Anthony Siders told Tampabay.com. “But in regards to the culture of hazing that’s been eradicated over time, the students do understand the severity and the importance that it must go or this university will not live.”