Tallahassee, Florida- August 31, 2012
The Florida A&M Rattler football team plays its first game this weekend without the presence of the famed band. The Marching 100 have been suspended for at least a year following the hazing death of a drum major, and boosters and the University are trying to put the best face possible on the bands absence.
The FAMU band is often as big a draw as the football team, but band members will be sidelined this year following the hazing death of Drum Major Robert Champion. As players arrived at the airport for a flight to Nashville to play arch rival Tennessee State,
They were greeted by a first ever community rally to support the school and the team.
Cheerleaders shouted a FAMU cheer, while linebacker Brandon Hepburn says it is the teams chance to shine.
“Its an awesome opportunity to be a front runner at our own games” says Hepburn.
“When the dark clouds gather” is how Interim President Larry Robinson began another cheer leading session. University officials and community leaders acknowledged the bands absence makes this season unusual if not challenging.
“We’re not unfamiliar with the notion that they were not going to be there and we’ve gotten ourselves prepared for that,” says Robinson.
Boosters are calling on residents not to be fair weather fans. “Get behind the football team and purchase season tickets” was the request from former Alumni President Alan Williams. Boosters Vice President Selvin Cobb say football ticket sales are important because they fund other sports. “That’s what gonna pay for the tennis team, the volleyball team, the non-revenue sports” says Cobb.
But even with low season ticket sales, attendance averages eighteen thousand
The athletic department says season tickets are on par with where they were last year, but they’ve never really been great, selling between thirty two and thirty five hundred a year”.
The school is hoping an increase in season ticket sales will offset some of those walkups that only came for the band.
The band would have traveled to Nashville for the opening game had they not been suspended. The University and the family of Drum Major Robert Champion recently began negotiations to a settle the lawsuit filed in the drum majors death.