TALLAHASSEE (AP) — Keith Miles has been around the Florida A&M football program for nearly a half century and doesn’t remember any game when the school’s famed Marching 100 band didn’t perform. Until now.
The football team is home alone this fall with the band suspended in the aftermath of last November’s hazing-related death of drum major Robert Champion following the Rattlers’ final game of the 2011 season. Recording artist FUTURE is filling in as the halftime entertainment for Saturday’s game against Hampton.
“There’s going to be some music, (but) it won’t be coming from the band,’ Florida A&M coach Joe Taylor said Tuesday. “There’s going to be a lot of music and a football game. We’re going to find a way to still enjoy it and have a good time.”
Florida A&M (0-2) looks to bounce back from a 59-13 defeat last week at fifth-ranked Oklahoma when the Rattlers begin their Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schedule against Hampton (0-2).
The halftime shows featuring marching bands has long been more of a main attraction at games involving Historically Black Colleges and Universities than during other NCAA contests. Perhaps none are better known than the exuberant, high-stepping Marching 100.
“The difference between us and other folks is that their fans get up to buy their popcorn or go to the restrooms at halftime,” said assistant sports information director Ronnie Johnson, a graduate of Alcorn (Miss.) State. “Our fans don’t leave for the restrooms until after halftime.”
Miles, who grew up watching the late Jake Gaither’s great FAMU teams of the 1960s, has been the play-by-play announcer at FAMU for 27 seasons and said it’ll be a different atmosphere on Saturday.
“There’s never been a season where there wasn’t a band,” Miles said. “Certainly their presence will be missed at the game as part of the 12th man, but at the end of the day it’s about football.”
Like many of his teammates, left tackle Robert Hartley said he’s never seen the band perform, spending the halftime break in the locker room.
“The band isn’t the football team and we’re not the ones that are in trouble,” he said. “We don’t want to harp on something that has absolutely nothing to do with us.”
Although Florida A&M attendance has averaged about 15,000 for home games in recent seasons, Miles said he’s hopeful fans will pack the 25,000-seat Bragg Stadium as a show of support for the university during one of its most difficult times that has among other things led to the abrupt resignation of President James Ammons.
Taylor, agreed, said everyone is looking toward a better day for the university and he hopes that winning the MEAC football championship might be a good start with the band on the sidelines this year.
“As they go through their punishment, my hope is that it’s not in vain, that they learn that nobody’s bigger than life,” Taylor said. “There are rules and when you play within the rules, you can keep playing.”
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