Florida A&M University suffered a loss against HBCU rival Bethune-Cookman Saturday night during the Florida Classic football game, but the FAMU family experienced a bigger heartbreak when it lost a leader of its band.
The Marching 100 drum major, Robert Champion, was found unresponsive shortly after the game and was pronounced dead that night.
The 26- year-old had trouble breathing and experienced sickness before collapsing on the school’s bus, CNN reports. Although the cause of death has yet to be determined, there is speculation that Robert’s death may be a result of an HBCU ban tradition that is seldom discussed in mixed company.
"Hazing was involved in the events that occurred prior to the 911 call for assistance," said investigators reporting to Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings.
The President of FAMU, James H. Ammons spoke out during a news conference Tuesday morning. He expressed sorrow for the family, as well as seriousness in regards to this unfortunate case.
“Hazing is illegal and it is something that should not happen,” said James.
James decided to suspend the band and any other ensembles from the music department out of respect for the Champion family. James added that his top priority is “protecting the safety, health, and well-being of every student, faculty, and staff member.”
FAMU’s famed Marching 100 has a history of reported hazing, which is not unusual in HBCU band programs. Exactly a year ago, HBO "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," aired a documentary about HBCU marching bands and hazing. Students then spoke out on the process and even demonstrated some of the activities that take place during a hazing period.
The Marching 100 is known for its entertaining and crowd pleasing performances. The band has accomplished much throughout the years, even performing at inaugural events, award shows, television programs, and much more.
This unsolved death is tragic for the Marching 100 program along with the Florida A&M University institution. A memorial service is expected Wednesday on campus at Lee Hall for the students to remember the life of Robert.
Watch a portion of HBO’s report on band hazing below.
Watch CNN’s brief report on Robert’s death.
What do you think about hazing? Is it a good tradition when done responsibly, or should it be banned altogether? Leave your comments below.