VIDEO: Interview with FAMU President James Ammons on Marching 100

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UPDATED 5.14.2012 by Julie Montanaro

We had a chance to sit down with FAMU President James Ammons this afternoon and talk about today's decision to continue the band's suspension as well as the hazing death that started it all.

President Ammons said the band would remain suspended for the 2012-2013 academic year. He says in the meantime, the school will continue to recruit talented musicians and offer them scholarships.

Ammons said he extended the band's suspension out of respect for Robert Champion's family and it will give the school time to restructure the band and launch a national search for its next leader.

Ammons said he was disappointed in recent revelations that more than 100 band members were not enrolled in FAMU's band class as required.

"This is written in everything that we give to the music department and to music students and for the life of me, I don't understand how we can have the professors who were in charge of this class and who, like very other professor in this university who teaches, verify the enrollment and attendance of students in their class and not notice that now you've got 101 more than in your class. This will not happen again," Ammons said.

Ammons would not comment on Dr. Julian White's claims that he is a scapegoat and would not comment on whether there will be any more suspensions or terminations. FAMU's attorney cited ongoing investigations and pending litigation.

Additional Video Provided by The News Service of Florida

Q&A with Famu President James Ammons. He responds to the question of whether he should resign, how 101 members of the band were able to participate when they should have been ineligible and the status of students with band scholarships, and more.

Ammons said FAMU's School of Business and Industry will now do research to see how ticket sales may be impacted by the absence of the Marching 100.

He says two of the band's biggest performances, the Atlanta Classic and the Florida Classic, bring in 1.5 million dollars. He says that's about nine percent of the budget.

Yet Ammons is confident the suspension will not have a significant impact on the university's enrollment.

"Even in this down economy, graduates are walking out with multiple job offers. Biggest problem is which offer am I going to take? That didn't happen everywhere, alright?" Ammons said. "So ... and the other thing, there are many members of the 100 who are not music majors. They major in everything, okay? So, I think it's the university that influences decisions, not so much the band. I mean, after today, everyone knows it will eventually come back."

Ammons says there is not a day that goes by that he doesn't think of Robert Champion and his family. He says there must be justice and accountability. He called Champion's death and subsequent arrest of 13 fellow band members "heart-wrenching."

"This is a tragedy, a serious tragedy, but again, we have laws in this state. We have a justice system and we have to let it work," Ammons said of the arrests.

For the first time, Ammons also responded to calls for his resignation.

"And what do you say to those who say you should take some responsibility in all this? There have been calls for you to step down. How do you respond to those suggestions?"

"First of all, I care deeply about Florida A&M. I'm a graduate of this institution. There isn't in my mind a higher honor than to serve as president of Florida A&M University, but I understand at the end of the day that it is the call of the board of trustees," Ammons said. "But I will say this. I would like to have the opportunity to put in place the kind of band programs that all of us associated with this university and who care about human respect and dignity can be proud of."

For the full interview of FAMU President James Ammons, click on the video below



Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Florida A&M's famous Marching 100 band will not take the field for another year, university president James Ammons announced Monday, as the fallout from a hazing death continues to roil the school.

Ammons said he had spoken with a wide cross-section of students, faculty, alumni and supporters of the school's athletics programs before deciding that sensitivity to the family of drum major Robert Champion, who died in an alleged band-related hazing, and the need for more time to come up with new policies for the band should carry the day.

"After thoughtful considering of all of the information, I have decided that the suspension of the band will continue through the 2012-13 academic year," Ammons told members of the school's board of trustees on a conference call.

The announcement came four days after Chancellor Frank Brogan urged FAMU to continue the suspension of the Marching 100 in the wake of Champion's death.

Champion, 26, was allegedly beaten to death in a ritual hazing on board a charter bus during a band trip to Orlando in November. The incident prompted university officials to suspend activities of the vaunted marching band while the investigation continued. Thirteen people have been charged in connection with the hazing.

Several probes of the band and hazing within it are still going on, including a university committee aimed at looking for ways to prevent hazing.

Ammons also said that a new set of guidelines would have to be put in place before the band could return. The new rules could deal with a broad range of subjects, from academics to practice time to travel policies.

"The band must be restructured," he told trustees.

Ammons said a plan set to be unveiled at a board meeting in June will lay out how the band can be brought back while keeping students safe.

Despite some questions about how continuing to sideline the band -- long seen as a highlight of FAMU football games and other sporting events -- might impact the university, board members seemed generally supportive.

"I know it's a hard pill to swallow, because we all love the Marching 100," said trustee Torey Alston.

FAMU is discussing other ways of entertaining fans at the two classics the football team takes part in each year -- the Atlanta Football Classic and the Florida Classic. The alleged hazing of Champion took place after the Florida Classic game between FAMU and Bethune Cookman.


FAMU Media Release -- May 14, 2012 --

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. –The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Marching “100” band will remain suspended for the 2012-13 academic year, FAMU President James H. Ammons announced today.

The band has been under suspension since November 2011, following the death of Robert Champion, a FAMU student and drum major, after an alleged hazing incident on a band bus in Orlando.

Meeting with the FAMU Board of Trustees, Ammons said that extending the suspension was necessary because of a number of issues, including the recent retirement of the long-time band director, the dismissal of two faculty members and a number of unresolved issues about the operation and regulation of the band. But he added the death of Mr. Champion was paramount in determining the band’s status.

“In making this decision regarding the band’s return, and as a parent, I was heavily influenced by the need to be respectful of Mr. Champion’s family and other alleged victims,” said Ammons. “A young man lost his life and others suffered serious injuries. Earlier this month, charges were announced against 13 people in connection with Mr. Champion’s death. In addition, the FDLE is continuing an investigation into financial operations of the band.

Ammons stressed that the band would return. But he stressed that corrective actions needed to be developed.

“As president, my goal is to implement the best conditions by which we can create a safe environment for teaching, learning and research to take place and to ensure that such safety carries through to all of our student organizations, including the band,” he said.

Ammons said that in recent weeks, he has been meeting with several stakeholder groups, such as the leadership of the FAMU Faculty Senate, the executive committee of the National Alumni Association, members of the Rattler Boosters’ Board of Directors, and the executive leadership in the FAMU Student Government Association. He also received input from the Board of Governors, Chancellor Brogan, the FAMU Board of Trustees as well as other state leaders.

Out of these meetings and communications, Ammons said there were suggestions of guidelines that need to be in place before the band should be reinstated, such as:

• Academic standards to be eligible to participate in the band.
• Length of time an individual is permitted to participate.
• The length of practice time.
• The number of adults accompanying the band on out-of-town trips.
• Enforcing travel procedures.

“The band became iconic because of its commitment to excellence in every aspect of its on-field performance. I agree with the common theme expressed by our constituents, the band must be restructured. There is a limited time-frame between now and the fall in which to adequately implement any recommendations that are adopted for the organizational and managerial restructuring of the band,” he said.

Ammons said FAMU is working with groups on alternative entertainment for the classics and home games. He also said his administration will present a plan for the band’s return and a restructuring of the music department to the Board of Trustees at the board’s June meeting.

Additionally, he indicated he will provide suggested guidelines for new membership intake for all student organizations, which had been suspended for the spring 2012 semester.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - May 14, 2012 - 11:15am

FAMU President James Ammons recommends that the Marching 100 band remain suspended through the 2012-2013 academic year.

"We will continue to work with the music department...especially those students that were in the band," Ammons said to the Board of Trustees.

FAMU is exploring alternative halftime acts for football games.

The FAMU BOT hope people will support the football team: band or no band. We "need die-hard Rattlers now more than ever," one trustee said.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - May 14, 2012 -

Florida A&M University's famed marching band is being suspended until 2013.

FAMU President James Ammons told the school's board of trustees on Monday that he will keep The Marching 100 off the field for the upcoming school year.

Eleven FAMU band members face felony hazing charges stemming from Robert Champion's death in November. Two others face misdemeanor counts.

Ammons suspended the band soon after Champion's death.

Last week it was revealed that 101 band members were not FAMU students at the time of the incident. Longtime band director Julian White, who had been fighting to keep his job, abruptly decided to retire.

Top state officials including Gov. Rick Scott and the university system chancellor say the Marching 100 should remain sidelined until other ongoing investigations into the band are completed.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - May 14, 2012 -

The fate of Florida A&M University's famed marching band may be decided soon.

FAMU President James Ammons and the FAMU board trustees are holding a special meeting on Monday to discuss the Marching 100.

Eleven FAMU band members face felony hazing charges stemming from Robert Champion's death in November. Two others face misdemeanor counts.

Ammons suspended the band soon after Champion's death.

Last week it was revealed that 101 band members were not FAMU students at the time of the incident. Longtime band director Julian White, who had been fighting to keep his job, abruptly decided to retire.

Top state officials including Gov. Rick Scott and the State University System Chancellor say the Marching 100 should remain sidelined until other ongoing investigations into the band are completed.

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