OU players lament absence of Florida A&M's famed marching band
BY GUERIN EMIG World Sports Writer
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
9/05/12 at 4:13 AM
Related Story: OU football notebook: Florida A&M suspends four players
NORMAN - Someone mentioned Florida A&M's famous Marching 100 band, and for a moment Roy Finch forgot.
"Oh, man. Their band? It's one of the best bands in the whole country. You're gonna be on the edge of your seats. They'll be jiggin'," said Finch, the Oklahoma slot/running back from Niceville, Fla. "You're gonna have a good time. It's gonna get ya up."
No, sadly, it's not.
The Marching 100 won't be joining the Rattlers football team at Owen Field on Saturday night. They won't be playing Norman or anywhere else for a while.
The band that has performed at Super Bowls, presidential inaugurations and Grammy Awards has been suspended by Florida A&M University in the aftermath of the death of Robert Champion last November.
Champion was a 26-year-old drum major in the Marching 100 who, according to investigators, died after being beaten during a hazing ritual inside one of the band's buses. The band was in Orlando at the time to perform at the FAMU-Bethune-Cookman football game.
Twelve individuals were brought up on felony hazing charges. Band director Julian White resigned. FAMU president James Ammons followed suit as old allegations of hazing within the band resurfaced.
It has been a devastating 10 months for a school known most of all for its band. ESPN College GameDay aired from FAMU's Tallahassee campus in 2008 and showcased the Marching 100 as much as the football team.
University officials are trying to carry on with a revamped halftime show, and with understandably careful comments when asked about the situation.
"I tell folks all the time I taught drivers ed. I know how to stay in my lanes," FAMU coach Joe Taylor said when asked about the band during a recent phone interview. "We're staying focused on the first, second, third and fourth quarters."
The Rattlers lost at Tennessee State 17-14 in their opener last Saturday. Now they come to OU for what promises to be an unpleasant 3 1/2 hours of mismatched football, without the one thing people might have been interested to see.
"All eyes would have been on them at halftime. It would have been a special performance," said Sooners cornerback Demontre Hurst, who has seen the Marching 100 on YouTube and whose high school band in Lancaster, Texas, borrowed from FAMU's style. "If they were up here, I'd probably be nodding my head a couple times in the locker room."
"My granddaddy grew up in Florida, so when I was younger we always used to go just for the band. Not for the football team, but the band," OU safety Tony Jefferson said. "It's a sight to see. I was kind of hoping they'd come here."
Football players aren't the only ones.
"As a young child, we lived in Tallahassee," said Brian Britt, director of the Pride of Oklahoma marching band. "I can remember seeing the Florida A&M band in parades. Even then I was impressed with their energy and excitement. We're always excited to share the field with the visiting band, in particular those recognized nationally such as Florida A&M's."
FAMU made a rare trip to play a non-Florida FBS opponent in 2004. The Rattlers traveled to Illinois, and after the 52-13 blowout, the two bands shared the field for a joint battle/concert.
When OU announced the FAMU game last February, Britt was sadly aware that kind of scene could not play out on Owen Field.
"We are a very close-knit community," he said of college bands. "When you see a renowned program like this have a tragedy of this nature, it transcends the fact we're spread throughout the country.
"We're all entrusted with people's sons and daughters. It's unimaginable what has happened at Florida A&M. That resonates with everyone. If you asked anyone in the college band world, their hope is some good can come out of this. Moving forward, they'll change the culture and build on the strengths of their tradition, jettison the things that were so disruptive to that tradition. And that their program can eventually return better than ever."
That won't happen until the summer of 2013 at the earliest. The suspension carries through next spring.
So while the game will be played Saturday night at OU, the show has been stopped.
"It would have been cool," Finch said. "I've seen them in action. I went up to their school with a couple friends when I was in high school. It was a thing called 'Battle of the Bands,' when they competed against other schools. I had a good time.
"You've got to look at it from OU's tradition and FAMU's tradition. FAMU has a lot of tradition themselves, it's just a different type of tradition. It would have been really nice to see those two schools or cultures come together.
"Even though the game might have been a blowout or whatever, I would have been excited to see our fans kind of get into their thing. That doesn't happen a lot with two schools that are so different."
Vs. Florida A&M
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Original Print Headline: Famed band won't make trip to OU
Guerin Emig 918-581-8355
Robert Champion: The drum major died last November after what investigators call a hazing ritual.