A former member of FAMU's Marching 100, Tampa Bay Tech High School's Band Director Rondal Russell says he can't believe the latest revelation that some band members slipped through the cracks without being enrolled.
Tampa, Florida - Another blow at Florida A&M University in the wake of the hazing death that cost the life of drum major Robert Champion.
Bay area alumni of the Marching 100 are now trying to come to grips with yet another embarrassment. Now it turns out that some of those arrested in the scandal weren't even students.
Students who want to be in FAMU's band must be enrolled at either FAMU, FSU or Tallahassee Community College and it's required that they enroll in a music course. But FAMU can't confirm whether 101 students were enrolled in that music class.
In fact, the university isn't even sure those students were even enrolled in any college.
More than a decade before Band Director Rondal Russell served as the Director of Band and Orchestra at Tampa Bay Tech High School, he was part of FAMU'S Marching 100 from 2001-2004.
"I am heartbroken because I know what the program offers," Russell says. "I know the excitement that people get just seeing that uniform turn the corner."
He adds that he can't believe the latest revelation that some band members slipped through the cracks without being enrolled.
"The first thing they ask you for is your class schedule - so your class schedule had to say you're taking some sort of classes you were enrolled in school."
He says what's even harder to believe is that it could happen under the watch of longtime band director 71-year-old Julian White. He says Dr. White was serious about documenting things with paperwork.
"I know Dr. White and how he operates."
But Dr. White abruptly retired Thursday in a move that Russell just learned of Friday. He says he's stunned. But no one has been more stunned than Tampa Bay Tech High School seniors like Janae Morrow and Gerardo Sanchez. They were at one time hoping to head to Tallahassee to become a part of the band.
Gerardo says, "The pride, the vibe is just amazing."
But they've enrolled in different schools now since the band has been suspended and that means for many students here who'd hoped to attend band camp at FAMU they are out of luck too. It's been canceled.
"A lot of kids that's their goal especially from a marching standpoint. 'That's my goal, I want to be in that band, it's world renowned, wold famous, Super Bowl performances - Grammy performances,'" Russell says. "For that avenue to be somewhat closed it's hard. It's also hard to know that being out there how much work and time and effort and sweat and tears you put into that just to see it all go. It's hard."
He adds, "I remember seeing FAM at a Florida Classic back in 1988 at the old sombrero that's when I first saw FAM - and once I saw that I was like I'm going to be a music major - I'm going to be in that band - I told my Dad that - that day - and I know a lot of these other kids feel the same way."
Monday morning the president of FAMU is expected to discuss the fate of the band with the board of trustees. The chancellor of the state university system is calling for FAMU's band to be suspended indefinitely.
Tammie Fields, 10 News