Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FAMU Marching 100 band shuts down while drum major's death is investigated; hazing suspected

The Florida A&M University Marching 100 has seen 30 students kicked out of the band this semester because of hazing. There are three active investigations.

Associated Press (2010)

The Florida A&M University Marching 100 has seen 30 students kicked out of the band this semester because of hazing. There are three active investigations.

TALLAHASSEE — Florida A&M University's famed Marching 100 band, which has a history of hazing, has been shut down until investigators find out more about how one of its members died after a football game.

University president James Ammons on Tuesday said he suspended all performances and other activities out of respect for the family of 26-year-old Robert Champion of Atlanta. The drum major was found unresponsive on a bus parked in front of an Orlando hotel Saturday night after the school's loss to rival Bethune-Cookman. Champion was vomiting and had complained he couldn't breathe before he collapsed.

Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said a preliminary autopsy was inconclusive and more tests would be needed to know what caused Champion's death. Demings said investigators had traveled to Tallahassee and had concluded that "hazing was involved in the events that occurred prior to the 911 call for assistance."

In Florida any death that occurs in connection with hazing is a third-degree felony.

"In the next few days or weeks, it will become clearer as to whether any criminal charges will be forthcoming," Demings said in a statement.

University officials acknowledged Tuesday that 30 students this semester were kicked out of the band because of hazing and that there are three active investigations. Ammons said it would be wrong to allow the band to keep performing until more is known about what happened to Champion.

"I think we need to stop and give ourselves the opportunity to find out the facts," Ammons said. "And until we do I just don't think it's appropriate to have the band performing and representing the university."

Ammons also said he was creating a special task force to review whether there have been ongoing inappropriate band customs or traditions. He said the school will cooperate with Orange County deputies who are investigating the death.

Ammons didn't stop at the Marching 100.

He suspended all bands and ensembles that operate under the supervision of the university music department.

The move affects more than 400 students, but it comes after football season when the band has most of its performances. Its last show was during the annual Florida Classic against Bethune-Cookman.

The Marching 100 — whose rich history includes performing at several Super Bowls and representing the United States in Paris at the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution — was scheduled to perform at the fall commencement on Dec. 16.

Music department chairman Julian White, who's the director of bands, was at the news conference where the suspension was announced, but he did not comment. White did not respond to a phone call requesting comment.

Champion's father, also named Robert Champion, said his son always wanted to be in the band.

"He did what he wanted to do and he reached the plateau that he wanted to be," he told Atlanta's WSB-TV. "I think he was in pretty good condition. He ate and he trained and had no medical condition that I know of."

Previous hazing

Accounts of hazing at FAMU go back decades.

In the 1980s, parents complained about beatings to their children who were in the marching band. In the late 1990s, several band members were suspended after hazing incidents resulted in multiple hospitalizations.

In 2004, a student who had been beaten so badly that his kidneys shut down won a $1.8 million verdict in civil court.

And in 2007, a group of fraternity brothers were prosecuted criminally after a hazing incident the year before left a recruit with many injuries, including a ruptured eardrum.

FAMU Marching 100 band shuts down while drum major's death is investigated; hazing suspected 11/22/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 11:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tim Tebow heads back to Sunshine State with promotion to St. Lucie


    Tim Tebow is coming back to the Sunshine State.

    Columbia Fireflies outfielder Tim Tebow looks out from the dugout before the team's game against the Augusta GreenJackets on April 6 in Columbia, S.C. Columbia defeated Augusta 14-7.
  2. 'Sharknado' coming to Tampa Theatre with director Q&A


    A movie about a tornado filled with man-eating sharks has to be better on the big screen, right? You'll have a chance to find out for yourself when the Syfy network's original Sharknado screens at Tampa Theatre.

    The original 'Sharknado,' which premiered in 2013, will screen at Tampa Theatre.
  3. Coast Guard airlifts man from fishing boat in Gulf of Mexico

    Public Safety

    A 27-year-old man was evacuated from a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Saturday night, authorities said.

  4. Trump: Not 'that far off' from passing health overhaul


    WASHINGTON — Making a final push, President Donald Trump said he doesn't think congressional Republicans are "that far off" on a health overhaul to replace "the dead carcass of Obamacare." Expressing frustration, he complained about "the level of hostility" in government and wondered why both parties can't work …

    President Donald Trump speaks during a bill signing event for the "Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017" in the East Room of the White House, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) DCEV208
  5. Erin Andrews, ex-NHL player Jarret Stoll marry in Montana


    NEW YORK — Sportscaster Erin Andrews and former NHL player Jarret Stoll have tied the knot.

    FILE - In this Oct. 30, 2016 file photo, Fox Sports broadcaster Erin Andrews, left, speaks with Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones after an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers in Atlanta. Jennifer Allen, a publicist for Andrews, confirms Sunday, June 25, 2017, that the 38-year-old Fox Sports sideline reporter and ???‚??“Dancing with the Stars???‚?? co-host married the 35-year-old Stoll over the weekend.  (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) NYSP103