Fans gather for Florida Classic - FOX 35 News Orlando

Fans gather for Florida Classic

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ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

It has been one year since a Florida A&M University drum major was beaten to death aboard a bus during a hazing ritual.   A total of 13 people are facing charges in the death of Robert Champion.   One has been sentenced, having received house arrest and probation.

Because of the hazing controversy, FAMU's marching band will not be performing at the Florida Classic this year in Orlando.

An anti-hazing workshop that was held Friday morning wasn't the only indication that this year's Florida Classic has a different feel.  While there's was a very familiar band missing at the battle of the bands on Friday night, there was a familiar spirit.

The music played on  at the Amway Center, but the fans we spoke with admitted that crowds have been down at this year's events, and the absence of the famous FAMU band is a big reason why.

"It's a little disappointing, because Rattlers aren't playing this year, but of course, Bethune is here to represent, so I'm happy about that," said Donald Varisce, who is visiting from Miami.

The Classic is a tradition for many, with or without the famed Marching 100.  Linda Stallworth hasn't missed a classic since she was 3, and the smaller crowds aren't getting her down.

"It doesn't matter!  I'll be here next year and the year after that and the year after that.  Go FAMU!" Stallworth said.

Since its inception in 1978,  over 1.5 million fans have watched FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University become the largest football game between 2 historically black colleges, bringing with it millions of dollars to Central Florida.  

Attendance will likely fall well below last year's number of 60,000.  The tradition will continue with Saturday's kickoff at 2 p.m. at the Citrus Bowl.   Florida Citrus Sports declined to release  the number of tickets sold.

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