Attendance down at annual Florida Classic game

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

The annual Florida Classic game was held at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando Saturday, but attendance for the game was down 50 percent compared to 2011.

Saturday marked the first Florida Classic game since FAMU drum major Robert Champion was killed during a hazing incident. As a result of his death, the FAMU band was suspended from performing and their absence from the game was definitely noticed.

The Florida Classic game began with a moment of silence for Robert Champion.

"It's sad that happened last year, and condolences to his family. It's not the same, it's a big difference," said fan Tara McDowell.

Instead of FAMU's Marching 100 band, the half time show consisted of just Bethune Cookman's band and R&B singer Charlie Wilson.

Many sections of the citrus bowl sat empty during the game. Officials said 32,317 people showed up for Saturday's game, which is down from the more than 60,000 people who attended in 2011.

Officials told WFTV they see the importance of having the Marching 100 band performing.

"We have tried to be creative in putting this on, we've learned a lot of things and seen some areas where we can tweak some things, but we understand the importance of both bands being here," said FAMU Athletic Director Derek Horne.

Many local vendors were affected by the low attendance. Nicholas Parrish said he's only made $82 so far during the Florida Classic weekend, when he's used to bringing in thousands.

"We spent out a lot of money for this, so we're taking a big loss this year," Parrish said.

Officials said they will review several things for next year, including the possible return of FAMU's band, in order to bring the attendance back up.