FAMU's Marching 100 performs first time since hazing death

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ORLANDO, Fla. —

FAMU's famous Marching 100 returned to the field Sunday.

 

The return follows a 19-month suspension following the hazing death of Senior Drum Major Robert Champion.

Champion wasn't mentioned specifically, but an announcement at the Citrus Bowl's MEAC/SWAC challenge was presented as a moment of silence for "all victims of hazing."

The band has a new director and 70 percent of the members are new.

Meanwhile, fans said the return of the Marching 100 was a huge source of excitement as they headed into the game.

1975 FAMU alumna Brenda Harris has been following the Marching 100 since college. She joined the fans streaming into the Citrus Bowl for one much-anticipated musical return.

"We are excited. We are happy to have them back," Harris said.

Former band member Dexter Billingslea said it's a new chapter for the band.

"It starts today in Orlando where it ended in Orlando and now we're just glad to be back," Billingslea said.

The band was suspended after the Florida Classic in November 2011, when Senior Drum Major Champion was beaten to death in a hazing incident.

After nearly two years and a changing of the guard for both the university and the band, fans Eyewitness News spoke with seemed ready to put the aftermath behind them.

"It's just as important as the football team to me. That's really why everyone comes to see the band," said a fan.

They finally got the chance at halftime when the band, reduced from 400 members to 140, reinforced many fans' faith that an iconic tradition can return stronger from its trial.

"I hope that with everything that we have gone through, that we have learned. And they know now what is and what is not expected. And I think they got the message," Harris said.

Champion's parents were not in support of Sunday's performance.

Their presence Sunday was a sign of protest that the band's return comes too soon after their son's death.

They also planned to promote their charity, the Robert D. Champion Drum Major for Change Foundation.